Assimilation (Encyclopaedia of Zionism and Israel)


Entry in the Encyclopaedia of Zionism and Israel (ed. Patai), excerpts



Assimilation became an acute problem (emphasis added) early in the 19th century, when emancipation transformed the legal status of the Jew from that of a ghetto dweller to that of an equal citizen.




The pressure toward objective assimilation has been inherent in the very freedom that the Jew enjoys in the democracies. Here the pressure is strong because the inner resistance to it grows progressively weaker. As the Jew weaves himself organically into the social fabric of his native land, the factors making for Jewish group distinctiveness fade. The greater his access to the means of economic, political, and social advancement and the more frequent and intimate his mingling with non-Jewish fellow citizens, the greater becomes his urge to cut the distance between himself and them by adopting their outlook and patterns of living. Also, the higher his general educational attainment, the larger looms the deficit in the Jewish, as against the gentile, component in his cultural makeup. Shifting of occupational structure, residential mobility, growing engagement in the professions and public services, new skills removed from traditionally Jewish crafts, increasing participation in civic affairs and social action, adaptation to prevailing forms of entertainment and recreation – all this, combined with a rising laxity in Jewish religious observance, a declining appreciation of Jewish values, and an ever-increasing pull from the general community, have made the Jew more susceptible to conformity and rendered his ‘otherness’ less relevant. This has brought in its wake an increasing rate of intermarriage, a growing indifference to things Jewish, and a nagging uncertainty as to the value of Jewish survival. The Jew’s vulnerability to assimilatory tensions has increased correspondingly.


This vulnerability has been further enhanced by certain philosophies and ideologies which underlie the programs of some Jewish groups and which, whatever the subjective intentions of their proponents, objectively breed assimilation




Anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish discrimination have tended to foster Jewish group cohesion and strengthen Jewish resistance to assimilation. The emergence of Zionism played a central role in combating both assimilationist tendencies and ideologies. Jewish communities have functioned vigorously in the larger democracies; in the smaller countries they have somehow managed to hold their own. They have all been profoundly affected by assimilation, but their power of resistance has not been totally lost. This resistance is reinforced by anti-Semitism and other forms of anti-Jewish bias to which Jews are exposed in larger or smaller measure even in the most liberal countries. Whether they will continue to be able to counter the effects of the disintegrating objective factors by mobilizing sufficient subjective forces rooted in the Jewish will to survive, only time will tell.


The Jewish Question and the Zionist Movement

The Jewish Question and the Zionist Movement

Udi Adiv (in Return No. 5, December 1990, London)

It is the common premise of both Zionist and anti-Zionist writers that the Zionist movement was established as a response to European anti-Semitism at the end of the 19th century. Jacob Katz, a leading Israeli historian, first emphasized the subjective idealistic factors of Zionism but later confessed that ‘without the anti-Semitic movement in the West and the pogroms in Czarist Russia it is impossible to imagine the establishment of political Zionism’ (1)

Maxime Rodinson [the known French Orientalist – E.D.] too maintains that Zionism itself was motivated by anti-Semitism. Thus, on the basic question of the starting point of Zionism, the conclusion of the Zionist historian is almost identical with the premise of the anti-Zionist Marxist [Rodinson]. It is, indeed, impossible to deny that all the important landmarks in the history of Zionism coincided with an upsurge of anti-Semitism. The trail-blazing Auto-Emancipation of Leo Pinsker and the establishment of the Lovers of Zion (Hovevei Zion) movement in 1881 – the precursors of political Zionism – were a direct response to the wave of pogroms and anti-Semitic decrees that followed the assassination of Czar Alexander II. Herzl, an assimilated Austrian Jewish journalist, wrote ‘Der Judenstaat’ after having covered the Dreyfuss trial in Paris.

Between the two world wars, ‘each stage of Jewish immigration to Palestine – the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Aliyot – has corresponded to an intensification of anti-Semitism’, mainly, at that time, in Poland and Germany (2).

The extermination of European Jewry by the Nazis during World War II was perceived as irrefutable proof of the Zionist argument. As a result, at the end of the war, the Zionist movement claimed to be the sole representative of the six million Jews who had died and of the hundred thousand survivors, on whose behalf it demanded the establishment of a Jewish state.

The question thus arose: What was the Jewish Question at the end of the 19th Century? How was Zionism a response to it? Whose problem has Zionism actually tried to solve?

The Jewish Question or the Question of the Jews?

A cursory reading of the Zionist arguments reveal that they all speak about the Jewish Question at the time with the definite article. For them it was an existential problem: of all Jews wherever they were, regardless of their country and class. Both the impoverished artisan family of the shtetl townlets in semi-feudal Russian and the Rothschilds, the famous Parisian bankers, as Jews, faced the same problem and shared, consciously or unconsciously, the same destiny. For them [the Zionists] it was not the problem of the Jews, rather the problem was the Jews.

Consequently, they argued, there was only one solution, namely, the Zionist solution. For an existential problem had to have an existential solution. According to the Zionist diagnosis, the Jewish problem is basically the anomalous existence of the Jews among what Herzl called the ‘civilized nations’. The Jewish people, the Zionists claimed, had preserved their religious habits and their traditional ways of life and could not adjust themselves to the modern world. According to their definition of the problem, the Jews still lived as a religious minority without territory of their own, dispersed in the world. It was this anomalous existence, they explained, which inevitably stimulated the anti-Semitic reaction.

Pinsker maintained that the essence of the problem lies in the fact that in the midst of the nations they form a distinctive element which can not be readily adjusted. Hence the problem is to find means of so adjusting the relations of this exclusive element to the whole body of nations that there shall never be any further basis for the Jewish question [Auto-Emancipation] (3)

Herzl explains in Der Judenstaat that the Jewish question is a misplaced piece of medievalism which the civilized nations do not even yet seem able to shake off. The Jewish question persists wherever Jews live. Our appearance there gives rise to persecution. This is the case and it will inevitably be so everywhere (4)

Gershon Shocken – the owner of a liberal Israeli daily and son of a well known German Jewish family, wrote a lengthy article ‘A New Look on Zionism’ (Ha’aretz 10. Sept. 1980) in which he summarised the Jewish problem as it had been defined by the fathers of Zionist ideology. It is the failure of the Jews in the diaspora to achieve a safe life as equals among equals. They (the Zionists) claimed that this problem would worsen until the physical existence of the Jews would be in danger. Their solution was the concentration of the Jews in one country in which they could achieve political independence like all the normal nations.

Ber Borochov, the theoretician of Poalei-Zion (Workers of Zion) party gave a Marxist interpretation to this anomaly of the Jewish situation. The Jewish problem, he explained, is basically “the national problem of the declining Jewish petty bourgeoisie, with no territory and no market of its own, is powerless against this menace”. On the other hand, he recognized, “anti-Semitism is closely tied with the social unrest of the lowest elements of the working class”. This popular anti-Semitism prevented the impoverished Jews from going through the normal process of proletarisation, and as a result the Jewish people became Luftmenschen who lived as parasites out of the process of production. “The Jewish problem migrates with the Jews”, precisely because of these reasons. Therefore, Borochov sums up, “Jewish immigration is tending to divert itself to a country where petty Jewish capital and labour may be utilised in such a form of production as will serve as a transition from an urban to an agricultural economy and from the production of consumers’ goods to more basic forms of industry” (Our Platform) (5)

The anti-Zionist writers, although rejecting the Zionist diagnosis and prognosis still speak about the Jewish Question with the same definite article. While the Zionists emphasized the imminent problem of Jewish existence, the anti-Zionists pointed to external conditions which were changing Jewish existence at the time.

For the Orthodox Jews the problem was the process of emancipation which undermined the traditional Jewish way of life. Salo Baron spoke of the combined forces of materialism, individualism, rationalism and secularism which threatened the very foundation of Jewish life (6).

Assimilated Jews saw the main threat in anti-Semitism, but they believed that sooner or later the democratic and progressive forces would overcome the anti-Semitic reaction and would open the way for a complete emancipation of the Jews.

Many socialists offered Marxist interpretations of the Jewish Question. Marx’s On the Jewish Question is a brilliant materialist analysis of the Jewish problem, as basically a problem of capitalism (7).

In his long introduction to Abram Leon’s ‘The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation’, Maxime Rodinson speaks, by definition, on the Jewish problem. He likes Leon, argues that the problem of the East European Jews at the time differed from the problem of the Western Jews (8).

In contrast, Lenin and the Bolsheviks made clear that they were speaking only about the oppression and exploitation of the Jewish workers ‘here’ and ‘now’ in Czarist Russia.

Isaac Deutscher, fifty years after Lenin, spoke very concretely about two different kinds of Jewish problem at the time. For him, one problem was an existential problem that arose with the decay of Jewish communities of Eastern Europe. According to him, what kept the Jews inside their decaying townlets and ghettos was a combined process of rapid growth of capitalism which undermined the old socio-economic basis of Jews, and a semi-feudal, autocratic and anti-Semitic regime which closed the doors of emancipation to them.

The other problem was the tremendous setback of the progressive movement of emancipation in the West towards the end of the 19th century, and the growth of a new kind of nationalist and racist anti-Semitism ‘which finally reached the macabre proportion of the Nazi era” (9). But Deutscher elsewhere refers to Zionism as a Jewish national response to the Jewish question. Just as the developed capitalism of the West differed from the semi-feudal and incipient capitalism in Eastern and Central Europe, so there were two different kinds of Jewish problems. Or, to put it dialectically, two different stages in the history of the Jews. Consequently there were two different kinds of solutions needed: that of the Eastern Jews, whose primary concern was to sustain their communities and their cultural identity in the face of the Russian and Polish nationalist oppression, and quite the opposite problem of the Western Jews, who, in order to achieve their emancipation, tried to rid themselves of their last vestiges of Judaism and to integrate themselves into what Hegel and the young Hegelians called the ‘civil society’.

It is my suggestion that there were two contradictory responses to two different kinds of anti-Semitism: The Eastern Jews resisted anti-Semitism by defending their Jewish existence, while the latter, the western bourgeois assimilated Jews resisted anti-Semitism as part of the German and French democratic movements. It can be concluded that Zionism could not possibly be a solution to the Jewish Question, precisely because the two Jewish problems in Europe required two different solutions.

Response of the Eastern Jews

In the second half of the 19th Century, the winds of the Enlightenment reached Russia. For the Jews it was also a beginning of Emancipation. A cultural movement of Jewish renaissance outside the Shtetl, primarily in Odessa, had emerged during the 1860’s and 1870’s, as Moses Mendelson had tried to do one hundred years earlier in Germany. The Haskalah or Enlightenment movement aimed to rationalise and revive traditional Jewish ways of life, mainly on the cultural level. At the same time, a small minority of Jewish professionals and members of the bourgeoisie became assimilated in the new Russian civil society.

The wave of pogroms and new anti-Semitic decress that followed the assassination of Czar Alexander II in 1881 again closed the door on emancipation for the Jews. The Jewish masses caught between an anti-Semitic regime and socio-economic decay found refuge in large scale emigration, mainly to the United States. Despite the political oppression of the Czarist regime, capitalism developed rapidly during the nineties in Russia and aggravated the economic situation of the Jews. The masses of Jews, alongside the Russian artisans, became proletarianized and Luftmenschen in the new labour market.

Thus, the beginning of the 1890’s marks the emergence of a Jewish working class. The Bund (Jewish workers party) was the first organisation of the Jewish workers at the time. In ideological terms, the Bund was a synthesis of the ideas of the Jewish Englightenment and of socialist movement. Like the Jewish writes of the time, the Bundists preached cultural autonomy as a response to anti-Semitism. But as workers, they say themselves as part of the Russian Social-Democrat Party and called for solidarity and common struggle with the Russian and Polish fellow workers. The Bund constituted a dominant current in Jewish society in Russia until the 1917 revolution, and in Poland until World War II. Other Jews belonging to the intelligenzia and to the proletariat class joined the Social Democrat Party and struggled for socialist revoluation as the solution to social and national problems.

But the majority of the Eastern Jews remained in the townlets and ghettoes trying, in vain, to close their doors to the winds of emancipation on the one hand and to the Czarist anti-Semitism on the other.

Thus, there were a number of Jewish responses to the Jewish problem in the East: The Enlightenment movement of the intelligenzia; emigration to the Western world; Jewish socialism of the Workers’ Bund; and reattachment to the old Jewish shtetl and ghetto community; Zionism.


In the West, after a century of emancipation and assimilation, no Jewish communities remained secluded from bourgeois society, and as consequence there was no collective Jewish response to anti-Semitism. The ‘Central Association of German Citizens of Mosaic Religion’, underlined in its program that “the German Jews will have an honourable place in the wider framework of the German nation”. Mark Bloch, the famous French historian, said: “All my life I saw myself first of all and in the most simple way as French”.

The Zionist movement did indeed suggest a solution to the Jewish problem at the time, but the question then became whose solution? The solution of Eastern Jews or the assimilationist solution of the Western Jews? In other words, was it the Jewish national response of the masses of ghetto dwellers in Russia and Poland or was it the movement of the assimilated Jews of the West? How did the Zionist movement view anti-Semitism: through the eyes of the Eastern Jews who still identified themselves as Jews, or through the assimilationist eyes of the Western Jews? In a word, was it a Jewish national revival or a new version of assimilationism? It could not be both.

Zionist historiography evades this dilemma precisely because it posits the premise that Zionism was the nationalist solution to the Jewish Question. It recognizes that the Jewish Question was not the same for the Eastern and the Western Jews, but explain this by saying that in the eyes of the anti-Semites both were Jews and, as such, required one national solution as a refuge from the anti-Semitic oppression.

According to the Zionist declarations, Zionism was indeed the return of the Western assimilated Jews to Judaism and through Zionism some kind of reunification between Western and Eastern Jews took place after a century of separation. But further examination of Zionist policies and actions reveal that it was a false reunification. In reality part of the German, French and British Jewish bourgeois assimilationists became Zionists, mainly to mobilize the Jewish masses of the East for its settler colonial project [in Palestine]. Their conception of Zionism was as a rhetorically Jewish version of German nationalism. In the words of Hans Kohn, German nationalism was “an overcompensation for political backwardness by a claim to ‘spiritual’ superiority based on the legend of pre-modern tradition’ (10)

Boaz Evron underlined the fact that in Zionism there is a strong motive of hatred towards the Eastern-European type of Jews and sometimes it is difficult to differentiate between Zionist descriptions of this type and the anti-Semites’ descriptions. An archetypal example of this is the utopian novel of Herzl Altneuland in which the Jewish motherland is drawn from the point of view of a Prussian Junker.

It is therefore in the examination of the specific question of this class of bourgeois assimilationist, non-Jewish Jews that one should look for the origin of Zionism and its relationship to anti-Semitism.



(1) Jacob Katz, Jewish Nationalism, HaSifriya ha-Tsionit, Jerusalem, 1979 (Hebrew)

(2) Nathan Weinstock, Zionism: False Messiah, Ink Links, London, 1979

(3) A. Hertzberg, The Zionist Idea, Atheneum, New York, 1981

(4) Ibid

(5) Ibid

(6) Salo Baron, Early Approaches to Jewish Emancipation, Diogenes, Vol. XXIX, 1960

(7) Karl Marx, Early Writings, Edited by T B Bottomore, London, 1963

(8) Maxime Rodinson, Cult Ghetto and State, Zed Books, London, 1981 and Abram Leon, The Jewish Question, A Marxist Interpretation, Pathfinder, New York, 1970.

(9) Isaac Deutscher, The Non-Jewish Jew, Merlin Press, London, 1963

(10) Hans Kohn, The Idea of Nationalism, Collier Books, New York, 1944

(11) Boaz Evron, The National Account, Dvir Publishing House, Tel Aviv, 1988 (Hebrew)


Zionism’s Attitude to Anti-Semitism

Zionism’s Attitude to Anti-Semitism

Tony Greenstein, in RETURN, London, March 1989

Much of the criticism of Perdition has centered around the exceptional and unique nature of the Holocaust, both in terms of the sheer magnitude and the systematic and planned nature of the extermination. Therefore, the argument goes, the reaction of the Zionists, and indeed the Jewish community to the Nazis, was also exceptional and cannot be analysed, still less judged, by those who didn’t experience those events. What I want to show is that the Zionist response to the Nazis, the collaboration and accommodation, far from being exceptional, was part of a pattern that was no different from the traditional response of Zionism towards anti-Semitism, and that this is true both for the period before and after the Holocaust. Although the Nazi era is not covered, there is no doubt that the primary goal of the Zionist movement throughout this period was the creation of a state that everything else, including the fate of the Jews, was secondary and had to be structured around the former. Further, that this relegation of the needs of Jewry to the Jewish state is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago.

The first example of Zionism’s attitude to anti-Semitism is prior to the Holocaust. From 1871, with the first outbreak of pogroms in Odessa in Czarist Russia to 1914, some 150,000 Jews took refuge in this country [England]. It is interesting to note the reaction to this immigration, both generally and more specifically, in terms of the existing Anglo-Jewish community. From the 1890’s onwards, Jewish immigration increasingly became an issue in British politics. Opposition to the Jewish refugees was spearheaded in particular by a group of Tory MPs and candidates in the East End of London. Much of what happened was to repeat itself 60 years later in respect to Black immigration into Britain. The organisation around which this opposition crystallised was the British Brothers League (BBL), a forerunner of the British Union of Fascists in the ’30s, which also had its base in the East End. It was founded by one Major William Evans-Gordon, who was elected to Parliament in 1900 for the constituency of Stepney, overturning a Liberal majority. The BBL had a bourgeois leadership and a plebian base, something which led to tension and sometimes conflict within that organisation. It should also be pointed out that at first, organised labour in Britain and the TUC was also opposed to Jewish immigration, because of the fear of unemployment, something that the BBL skilfully exploited.

William Evans-Gordon was a forerunner of Enoch Powell. He was also an ardent supporter of the embryonic Zionist movement, something which can be seen from correspondence between him and the future President of the Zionist Organisation and the State of Israel, Chaim Weizmann. In his autobiography, Weizmann goes out of his way to paint an extraordinary sympathetic portrait of this bigot:

I think our people were rather hard on him. The Aliens Bill in England and the movement which grew around it were natural phenomenon which might have been foreseen…Sir William Evans-Gordon had no particular anti-Jewish prejudices…he was sincerely ready to encourage any settlement of Jews almost anywhere in the British Empire [!] but he failed to see why the ghettoes of London or Leeds should be made into a branch of the ghettoes of Warsaw and Pinsk…Sir William Evans-Gordon gave me some insight into the psychology of the settled citizen…(1)

The BBL was also supported by the Jewish Conservative MP for Limehouse, Harry Samuel (who was displaced by a Jewish Liberal in 1906) and the Liberal Jewish MP for Wolverhampton South, Henry Norman. In the vote in 1905, of the 12 Jewish MPs, 4 voted for the Aliens Bill, 4 voted against and 4 abstained. The attitude of the existing Anglo-Jewish community of some 60,000, newly emancipated by the Whigs, was to fear that the backlash against the refugees – who unlike themselves were not anglicised, dressed differently, spoke Yiddish, etc. – would spill over into hostility towards themselves. They were for the most part prosperous and newly accepted within the innermost circles of the British bourgeoisie. Why jeopardize their class position for the sake of religious brethren with whom they had so little in common? Their attitude was best summed up by the Conservative Chief Rabbi of the time (some things never change) Hermann Adler: We [Anglo-Jewry] must frankly agree, that we do not desire to admit criminals, and that there is force in the argument against the admission of those [Jews] mentally or physically afflicted" (2)

Which is why the Board of Deputies of British Jews at no time opposed even the far more restrictive Aliens Bill of 1904. Instead they pressed, both the Tories who introduced it and the Liberals who implemented it, for a series of minor amendments. In the words of editor of the Jewish Chronicle Leopold Greenburg, the Board "asked for the driest of dry bread, it was given the hardest of hard stone." (3)

The person who piloted the Act through Parliament was the Home Secretary Arthur James Balfour. Balfour, who had previously been Prime Minister, was to become Foreign Secretary in the Lloyd George Cabinet. It was in the latter role that he would issue what became known as the Balfour Declaration, the letter that symbolized the alliance between British imperialism and the Zionist movement. Even today, Balfour is a legend among Zionists, the headquarters of Zionist Federation in Britain are named after him.

Balfour was extremely typical of the Tory (and Liberal) anti-immigration lobby. He combined support for Zionism with anti-Semitism. If you opposed Jews coming into this country then where better to send them than a state, coupled to British colonialism, in Palestine. In 1900, the fledgling English Zionist Federation issued a circular supporting all the anti-Semitic East End Tory candidates. The candidate for Whitechapel, David Hope-Kydd, whom even a local Conservative Alderman, John Harris, refused to support in the 1906 General Election, described the Jewish immigrants as "the scum of the unhealthiest continental nations" but nonetheless "coupled his desire for an aliens’ immigration bill with heart-rending support for the infant Zionist movement" (4). He lost to Stuart Samuel by only 71 votes and experienced a lower than average swing against (sic) in 1906. His use of language that the Moseleyites used about Jews in the ’30s and the National Front uses today about Black people, did not disqualify him from receiving the support of the Zionists. This congruence between Zionism and anti-Semitism was to be a feature that was to be repeated both in Britain and Europe.

Whatever happened prior to the Israeli state being founded, today the Zionists argue, it is a refuge and a guarantee of the safety of Jews world-wide. And seeking to vindicate their own movement’s record and prove the futility of opposition to anti-Semitism, they assert that if only there had been an Israeli state 50 years ago, then the Holocaust would never have occurred.

This is why the experience of Jews under the Argentinean Junta (1973-83) deserves analysis. During the period of the Junta, Nazi papers such as Cabildo and Papeles circulated freely, and the theories of international Jewish conspiracies were the military’s ideological stock-in-trade.

Under the Junta, some 30,000 people ‘disappeared’, i.e. were murdered. Of these, some 10 per cent were Jewish, despite the Jewish community comprising no more than 1 per cent of the Argentinean population. Yet there was no campaign to save Argentinean Jewry, unlike high profile campaigns over Soviet Jewry. No one would claim that in recent years some 3,000 Soviet Jews have been tortured to death, yet a massive cold-war campaign was launched to secure the rights of Soviet Jews to emigrate (as long as their destination was Israel) whereas the plight of Argentinean Jews was left to the quiet diplomacy of Israel. The facts which have emerged are due to people like Jacob Timmerman, liberal editor of La Opinion and himself a Zionist, who attacked the Zionist communal leadership in Argentina calling them Judenrat, the quisling Nazi-appointed Jewish Councils in [war-time] Europe (5). These bodies, Daia (the equivalent of the British Board of Deputies) and Amia (Ashkenazi Jewish Council in Buenos Aires) were controlled by the Israeli Labour Alignment and Mapam. They were also completely unrepresentative. In the 1987 Amia elections, only 7,000 out of an estimated 180,000 who were eligible voted, the Labour Alignment obtaining nearly 50% (6). In the election of delegates to the World Zionist Congress, 11,700 votes were cast, 5% of the total Argentinean Jewish community, of which 3,500 went to the Labour Alignment and 2160 to Mapam (7).

Daia and Amia took a decision that under no circumstances would they campaign openly and publicly against what was happening. A leading article entitled ‘A White Book’ (a publication Daia issued to justify its role) noted that "The Daia refers with pride to how, during a period of violence and repression in Argentina, Zionist activity continued, including Congress elections. The schools carried on normally, elections of officers took place for communal elections, Argentina was represented at international Jewish gatherings, in short they succeeded in their determination to maintain and protect a ‘full Jewish life’ (8). It described the visit of Geoffrey Paul, editor of the Jewish Chronicle [Britain], in 1979 to Argentina and how he "was urged not to make an issue of the disappeared because of the danger of a negative impact on the wider community…while the mothers of the Jewish disappeared pleaded for publicity to bring the atrocities before the public’s attention". Needless to say Paul heeded the call but, remarkably for the JC, the editorial asks whether, if similar circumstances were to arise in Britain, the Board of Deputies would behave in a similar way towards Jewish leftists and dissidents.

Timmerman was bitterly attacked in the United States for the position he took. Paul asks "How are we to explain the Jewish attacks on Timmerman? Some of them undoubtedly, have been inspired from conservative circles in the Jewish community, which have been convinced…that Timmerman was in league with left-wing terrorist groups opposed to the Argentine military, and that he ‘asked for what he got’ (9). It is these same conservative circles who are the first to raise the question of ‘anti-Semitism’ in relation to Nicaragua, the Soviet Union and Jesse Jackson.

In October 1983, as the days of the Junta were drawing to a close, a meeting organised by the Argentine Jewish Movement for Human Rights to protest anti-Semitic attacks (bombing of synagogues, etc.) drew 7,000 people, however "Daia, Argentine Jewry’s political representative body boycotted the event, which it said was dangerous in view of the lack of security" (10). Presumably the Junta had refused to give the necessary guarantees!

At the 1984 Congress celebrating the 90th anniversary of Amia "a group of women whose children disappeared during the Argentine military regime’s crack down on left-wing opponents shouted ‘Nazi, Nazi’ at those attending the Congress…The protesters claimed that Israel, Amia and Daia had done nothing to help the ‘desaparecidos’ (disappeared ones). The guest of honor was Mr. Yitzhak Navon, formerly [Labour] President of Israel. The mothers attempted to prevent his entrance to the conference, as well as that of the Israeli ambassador in Argentina" (11) It is no coincidence that brave group, the Jewish Mothers of the Disappeared, should focus on the role that Israel played, given its warm relationship to the Junta.

Israel is seen by most Jews as their insurance policy in the event of a recurrence of anti-Semitism. Not only does this belief in Israel as a refuge mean Jews are less inclined to take up the anti-Semitism of the Right, it is an insurance policy that is unlikely to deliver the goods. What Argentina demonstrates is that an anti-Semitic regime will also be authoritarian, semi-fascist and a creature of US imperialism. In short, one which the Israeli state is only too willing to do business with, politically, militarily and economically, its own Jews notwithstanding. Indeed, in so far as even the US may keep such a regime at arms lengths, as was the case with Guatemala and Somoza’s Nicaragua, then Israel will most likely be that regime’s first port of call Indeed we know from the Malvinas/Falklands War that Israel was the main arms supplier to Argentina at a time when the US had turned against her.

Not only will Israel not defend Jewish left-wingers, feminists, gays and other dissidents, one can expect Zionist neo-Conservatives in the US around Commentary and Mainstream magazines to bitterly attack the victims of this regime. If they could attack Timmerman, a liberal Zionist and famous editor, there will be no difficulty in attacking Jewish Marxists. Of course there are no such inhibitions about campaigning against ‘anti-Semitism’ in the USSR, because the Soviet Jewry was the rallying point for those who wished to wreck the new INF agreement in the same way as it helped destroy the SALT II agreement.

It is interesting to see what the reactions have been to Le Pen, a fascist who isn’t even in government. Le Pen is the most anti-Arab and pro-Israeli of French politicians. In the Jewish Chronicle there was printed an article, incredibly given his view of the Holocaust, entitled ‘Le Pen Backs Jews’ (12). Another article ‘Oui for Le Pen’ describes how a former official of the Marseilles Jewish community has come out in his support (13). It was estimated that at one stage, 20 per cent of the Jewish community in the Rhone estuary supported Le Pen. The anti-Arabism of the Front National is at one with Zionist anti-Arabism.

A dinner was held in Le Pen’s honor, attended by a variety of Zionist leaders including the Director of the World Union of General Zionists and a member of the Executive of the World Zionist Organisation Executive Jacques Torczyner and Dr. Israel Singer, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, whose feting of a French fascist didn’t disqualify him from pursing allegations unproved against Dr. Kurt Waldheim. It was widely rumoured that the Israeli ambassador to the UN, Benjamin Netanyahu, now a Herut candidate for the Knesset, was also on the guest list. As Jewish Chronicle columnist, Chaim Bermant noted, among these Zionists there is the belief that with the help of Mr. Le Pen the special relationship could be restored and that an anti-Arab government in France would necessarily be good for Israel even if it were also anti-Semitic. Indeed there are not a few Israeli politicians who would regard such anti-Semitism as a bonus if only because it would mean an increased influx of Jewish immigrants…and some would like to give what they regard as an inevitable process of history a helping hand. (14)

Even were we to omit entirely the era of the Holocaust and Nazism, then the relationship of Zionism and anti-Semitism would be found to be unchanged since the days of Herzl. That although anti-Semitism has been replaced as the predominant, state racism by anti-Black racism in this country (and similarly anti-Arab/Turkish in France and Germany), where it still exists, among the regimes in America’s back yard or in fascist parties in Europe, who given the right set of circumstances might gain a share of power as Le Pen was on the brink of doing, then Zionism is no more an answer today than it was 50 or 100 years ago. The only difference is that today Zionism holds state power and its capacity for damaging the interests of Jewry is correspondingly that much greater.


(1) Chaim Weizmann, Trial and Error, pp.90-91, Schocken, 1966

(2) G. Alderman, The Jewish Community in British Politics, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1983, p.187

(3) Jewish Chronicle 24.4.1908, cited in Alderman p. 78

(4) Alderman pp.68-75

(5) Prisoner Without A Name, Cell Without a Number, Weidenfield, 1980

(6) Jewish Chronicle 1.6.84

(7) Jewish Chronicle 30.10.87

(8) Jewish Chronicle 25.5.84

(9) Jewish Chronicle 31.7.81

(10) Jewish Chronicle 28.10.83

(11) Jewish Chronicle 23.3.84

(12) Jewish Chronicle 17.10.86

(13) Jewish Chronicle 11.9.87

(14) Jewish Chronicle 4.9.87 "Why some leading Jews are courting Le Pen".

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Elias settled in Iceland in 1962 and worked for over 20 years as computer programmer and systems engineer. At 1983 he quit work with computers and decided to return to his once-cherished field, music. After receiving a diploma as piano teacher in Switzerland, he returned to Iceland to work as a music school director, church organist, teacher, composer and arranger. He has published about 20 volumes of original compositions for musical education. These are widely used in Europe by music teachers and commercially available (see

In parallel to his professional occupations, Elias has for many years been involved in activism and research regarding social and global justice, peace, anti-racism and human rights. He is co-founder of the Association Iceland-Palestine and a supporter of a democratic State in the whole of historic Palestine for Muslims, Christians and Jews. He regards himself as an anti-Zionist and rejects the existence of a Jewish state as incompatible with human rights norms. His writings include articles on multinational corporations, the IMF and the World Bank, the Palestine question, Zionism, economic sanctions and international law (see writings by Elias Davidsson ). In 2002, Elias started research on the events of September 11, 2001 and founded the Icelandic chapter of the 9/11 truth movement.

Elias Davidsson moved from Iceland to Germany in July 2008. 

Theory of human rights

The following subcategories are discussed within "theory of human rights":

  • Human rights as natural rights
  • Human rights as non-reciprocal rights
  • Primary and derivative rights
  • Individual and collective rights
  • Rights and obligations
  • The obligations to respect, protect and secure
  • Immediate and progressive obligations
  • Jurisdictional issues: Extraterritorial obligations
  • Core or minimum rights
  • Non-derogable rights

‘War’? Legal Semantics and the Move to Violence


The Attack on the World Trade Center: Legal Responses



‘War’ – Legal Semantics and the Move to Violence

by Frédéric Mégret (*)

Full text available: PDF format
European Journal of International Law, Vol. 13, No. 2, 2002 

The use of the word `war’ to describe the anti-terrorist efforts in the wake of the 11 September attacks has gone virtually unchallenged. The term, however, is not innocent and carries far-reaching implications for international law. The article examines how its use can be said to fit into a broader strategy of legitimization of armed violence. `War’, it is argued, prepares the ground for what is basically an ideal-typical state of exception, which portrays the sovereign as the ultimate saviour of liberalism at home. But the domestic implications of the `war rhetoric’ are probably less important than the international ones, where `war’ can be manipulated to provide an escape route from the constraints of international law. This it does by reframing both the temporal and spatial coordinates of self-defence in a way that fundamentally loosens the framework of collective security. By the time the term’s use has been ratified by law, it will have served to exclude or distort alternative ways of understanding and dealing with the problem of terrorism, namely, as a criminal and political issue. Whatever else military action against terrorist targets may achieve, it is far from clear that placing such action under the banner of `war’ will serve the cause of suppressing terrorism.


(*)Doctoral candidate, Universit? Paris I (Panth?on-Sorbonne) and Institut Universitaire des Hautes Etudes Internationales, Geneva. The author would like to thank Florian Hoffmann, Peer Zumbansen, Bardo Fassbender, Jean Terrier, Ingo Hueck, Graciela Nowenstein and Jochen von Bernstorff for their comments on previous drafts of this article. This article was submitted on 14 November 2001, the day the Northern Alliance captured Kabul and it has not been possible to include significant changes thereafter.






Truth – Justice – Peace