Nationalism, Zionism and Ethnic Mobilization of the Jews in 1900 and Beyond

By Michael Berkowitz | Go to book overview

FORT MIT DEN HAUSJUDEN! JEWISH NATIONALISTS
ENGAGE MASS POLITICS

Joshua Shanes
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Galician Zionism began as a movement oriented towards “normal” nationalist goals: the encouragement of a Jewish national identity among Galician Jewry through cultural and educational projects, together with an engagement with domestic politics to protect and improve the Jews' economic and material position.1 In the brief intoxication following Theodor Herzl's ascendancy to leadership, political Zionism's nearly exclusive focus on achieving a Jewish state enjoyed a temporary dominance over the Jewish nationalist movement also in Galicia. By 1903, however, this had begun to wane, and in the following years Galician Zionism increasingly returned to its “Jewish nationalist” roots.

By the first years of the twentieth century, the movement had achieved a solid foothold among the secular intelligentsia, with scores of associations and over 4,000 members throughout the province. Nevertheless, the movement had still largely failed to penetrate into the traditional Jewish masses, most of whom remained politically disinterested and unconvinced by Zionist arguments that Jews constituted one of the constituent nationalities of the Habsburg Empire, and thus deserved the same national rights that most other nationalities enjoyed.

The 1905 decision of the emperor to support universal manhood suffrage, however, transformed the stakes of Zionist outreach. Not only did every male Jew become a potential and equally important voter, but the general atmosphere of mass mobilization throughout the province (voter rallies, the growth of mass-circulation newspapers, etc.) provided an unprecedented opportunity for Zionists to penetrate into the traditional and still largely politically uninvolved

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1
See J. Shanes, “Neither Germans nor Poles: Jewish Nationalism in Galicia Before Herzl 1883–1897, ” Austrian History Yearbook 34 (2003): 191–214.

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