The Thirty-Fourth World Zionist Congress

By Haber, Leo | Midstream, January 2002 | Go to article overview

The Thirty-Fourth World Zionist Congress


Haber, Leo, Midstream


We at Midstream are pleased and privileged to be referred to as editors of and writers for a Zionist journal. The terms "Zionism" and "Zionist" have been besmirched in the past century by those who seek the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel and who are no friends of the Jewish people. These enemies can be found on the far right and far left in equal number, equating Zionism with racism or fascism and quoting the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, that notorious forgery. The Zionist national liberation movement of the Jewish people is, perhaps, the only movement for freedom, democracy, and self-definition that is equally hateful to the petty Hitlers and Stalins of the world.

One can disagree with the policies of a particular Israeli government. This magazine proudly presents divergent viewpoint, for example, on how to ameliorate the matsav, the prevailing situation of rampant Arab terrorism in Israel today, as the current issue of Midstream so nobly illustrates. But all our discussants are Zionists devoted to the survival of Israel as a Jewish state and to the welfare of the Jewish people, their history, religion, and culture. On the other hand, defamation of Zionism itself is nothing less than an unacceptable cover for anti-semitism, worthy of total repudiation by all men and women of good will.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best. In a "Letter to an Anti-Zionist Friend" (printed in The Saturday Review in 1967, quoted recently by Robert Levine, national president of JNF, and cited in Masha Leon's column in a recent issue of the Forward), King wrote:

   You declare, my friend, that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely
   "anti-Zionist." I say, let the truth ring forth from the high mountain
   tops, let it echo through the valleys of God's green earth: When people
   criticize Zionism, they mean Jews -- this is God's own truth....
   Anti-Semitism has been and remains a blot on the soul of mankind.... So
   know only this: anti-Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic and ever will be
   so.

Jewish devotion to the glorious name Zion goes back three thousand years with its first mention in the book of Samuel II (5:7): "And David captured the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David." Perhaps the most poignant reference for Jews to Zion can be found in the book of Psalms (137:1): "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat, we also wept, as we remembered Zion." Triumph and tragedy in these two quotations -- a capsule description even in ancient times of the passionate Jewish relationship to its promised land and its capital city, the cynosure of its hopes for religious and cultural fulfillment.

The commitment of Jews in the modern world to its historic homeland, a commitment that never died out through all the years and places of dispersion, came to its initial climax with the first World Zionist Congress assembled in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897 by the modern Moses, Theodor Herzl. A historic group of 204 delegates set the goals of political Zionism in the Basel Program. The fifth World Zionist Congress in 1901 in London founded the Jewish National Fund, Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael, whereby even Jewish children throughout the world could contribute to the rebuilding of the Land of Israel. …

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