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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Zionism 4: Zionists during the First World War 1914-1918

Split Zionism - "active" Zionist groups create military units for the British army - "USA" become the Zionist center since 1918

from: History; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 8

presented by Michael Palomino (2007)

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[First World War 1914-1918: Zionist movement split between the war parties]

<World War I tested Jewish nationality as a political concept in the international arena. Zionism was in disarray. Conceived as an international movement and organization for carrying out Jewish policies by modern political means, it found itself divided between the two warring camps. Its main offices were in Germany, while the main body of its supporters were in the land of Germany's enemies or in neutral countries. From the days of Herzl, Zionist diplomacy had relied both on friendship with the Ottoman Empire, using the influence of Germany for this purpose, as well as one the friendship and support of England. Now these mainstays were in conflict. The Turks were gradually drawn into the war and when they entered it they had already become particularly suspicious of Jews and Zionists.> (col. 753)

[Passive Zionist groups - "active" Zionist groups want Jewish military units against the Turks with "warrior spirit" - spy group "Nili"]

<Their main policy was to wait and see. They argued that it would endanger the Jewish population in Erez Israel if Zionism took a stand against the Turks and it would harm the Jews in Russia if Zionists entered into an agreement with the Turkish-German side.

A small but very able and devoted minority thought otherwise. It included the veteran Zionist Max *Nordau, Chaim *Weizmann, Vladimir *Jabotinsky, Pinhas *Rutenberg, Joseph *Trumpeldor, and Meir *Grossman. They considered that Zionism should have an active policy. They estimated that a victory for a side which included the Turks would mean an end to the whole of Jewish development in Erez Israel. The phenomenon of the Polish legions who had served in the Napoleonic armies and the persistence of Polish national policy without a state of its own, the example of similar Italian units and policies before the attainment of Italian independence, and admiration for the symbolic figures of Garibaldi and Cavour influenced the thoughts of some of them.

they came to the conclusion that there could be no greater political asset than to create an activist, pro-Entente, Zionist-Jewish policy, and that there could be no finder expression of national behavior than to create Jewish units that would fight against the Turks, when, for the first time since the Jews had fought in alliance with the Persians and took Jerusalem from Emperor Heraclius in 614, Jewish blood would again be part of the price for the land.

[[Jewish blood is flowing since 1909 already with the self-defense Hashomer]].

Jews would obtain, so they hoped, basing themselves on these (col. 755)

precedents, a seat and a say with the victors, and they were sure these would be the Western democracies. For some of them there was also added the ideology of a renewal of the courage and warrior spirit of the nation through its formal and actual participation in the war. The behavior of the Turks in the land was so outrageous that Aaron *Aaronsohn formed a spy group, "Nili, to serve the Allies.

[Jewish Zionist military units - Jabotinsky: a "Jewish legion" should liberate Palestine from the Turks - Jewish units 1917-1918]

The differences of opinion were decided by acts. Trumpeldor and his associates organized a group that was accepted as a unit of muleteers; this battalion served with distinction at Gallipoli. It was recruited mainly from Jewish refugees from Erez Israel in Egypt. Trumpeldor forged both through instruction and personal example a high morale and brave behavior among these soldiers.

Jabotinsky in the meantime worked tirelessly in England for the formation of a *Jewish Legion in the British army to fight for the liberation of Erez Israel. He seized on the fact that many of the Jewish immigrants were not due for army service in England; their exemption caused anti-Semitism, and from his point of view they were a ready reservoir for his intended unit. The British began to incline to his view as the war was prolonged and they saw that the opposition of the mass of the Jewish population in the United States to the Allied cause was a considerable hindrance to the U.S. entry to the war.

One hundred and fifty of the *Zion Mule Corps, as Trumpeldor's unit was eventually called, joined Jabotinsky in London.

In August 1917 the 38th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, or as they were called from the end of 1919, the "First Judeans", composed almost entirely of Jews, mainly from London, was officially instituted (see *Jewish Legion).

In 1918 this battalion fought in Erez Israel. Its commander was Colonel John Henry *Patterson, formerly commander of the Zion Mule Corps. In the U.S. Pinhas Rutenberg, with the help of David Ben-Gurion, Izhak Ben-Zvi and *Chaim Zhitlovsky, mobilized in 1917 approximately 6,500 men who were to form the 39th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. After the conquest of Erez Israel by the British, the 40th Battalion was formed out of Erez Israel volunteers, many of whom later became activists of the *Haganah, like its leader Eliyahu *Golomb.

[[During all this time the Palestinians and the Arabs are not asked...]]

[2 Nov. 1917: Zionist "diplomacy" effects the "Balfour Declaration"]

Activist policy carried the day on the diplomatic and political fronts also, thanks to the actions of Chaim *Weizmann and his supporters. Despite many obstacles put in the way by Jewish assimilationists the *Balfour Declaration was issued (Nov. 2, 1917).

[since 1918: Russian Zionists emigrating to the "USA" - Zionism has it's center now in the "USA"]

Thus, at the end of World War I, clearly conceived Jewish policies were brought into effect through the importance of the new Jewish concentration in the United States, the ability and readiness for sacrifice among the intelligentsia circles of Russian origin, and the devotion and courage of the pioneers in Erez Israel. The latter also had not only kept the Jewish settlements intact under the hostile Turkish regime, but had undergone the ordeal of severe persecution after the discovery of the Nili spy group.> (col. 756)

[[So: Since then the "USA" are the leading Zionist state]].
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Sources
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: History,
                            vol. 8, col. 753-754
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: History, vol. 8, col. 753-754
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: History, vol.
                          8, col. 755-756
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: History, vol. 8, col. 755-756

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