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Southern Heritage <br>News and Views: The South and Zionism

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The South and Zionism

David S. Reif

While observing the 60th anniversary of the creation of the Jewish state of Israel there has been a number of celebrations and retrospectives to commemorate this historic event. The recent speech of President Bush at the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) about the appeasement of terrorists by candidate Obama focused the attention of the world on the Israeli anniversary, for instance. There are a number of articles in the dominant media as well.

It seems to me that there are certain considerations regarding this event that are of especial interest to the South and the Southern Movement. I will concentrate on the dual aspects that political and the spiritual Zionism present.

The Jewish Library defines Zionism as; “Zionism, the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel, advocated, from its inception, tangible as well as spiritual aims.” The divine component of this movement was evident early on as was the political motive; there is a debate as to which was (and is) the most important and from that argument negative fallout has been generated.

Although the founding of the Zionist movement is usually attributed to Theodor Herzl a wealthy European journalist in the late 19th century there were antecedents. Keen observers note that it was probably Moses Hess who originally informed Herzl of the idea. Hess was a protégé of Karl Marx and a fellow Jew. Marx rejected Judaism and all religion as did Hess although Hess would recant in his old age. Yet the two would make important contributions to the ideal of Zionism.

Marx lacked sufficient mental horsepower to comprehend the overriding issues that religion brought to the table but did address the problem of European Jews in his treatise, Zur Judenfrage (On the Jewish Question) in 1844: a political document. In it he tacitly acknowledged that the Jewish emancipation in Europe would work on several distinctive fronts among them economic independence and geographic independence. Thus he laid the ground work for Hess and Herzl although Marx believed that only emancipation from the capitalist “state” would truly bring freedom.

The anti-religious bias of Marx notwithstanding the concept of Zionism was complete. It would be a two-fold movement. Herzl believed that Palestine (Israel) was the historic and Scriptural home of the Jewish people and there was a supernatural connection to Zion which consisted of “blood and land”. Furthermore, there was a political dimension that Zion/Israel was the penultimate Jewish State that would exist on earth to rule the Hebrew tribes through a divine bond.

In the early 20th century Herzl and his Zionist movement began to transfer people into Palestine where they believe the Jews had a historic claim to the land. At first this was facilitated through wealthy European Jews buying land and resettling it. By 1914 there were perhaps 50,000 European Jews in Palestine; by 1941 the number was nearly 10 times that many.

In 1948 with the dissolution of the British Protectorate the Israeli state was formed. Quickly the pace of immigration hastened. With the guarantee of citizenship for any Jew the remnants of European Jewry after the disaster of the Holocaust flocked to Israel. The Jewish State of Israel has had a troubled if not star-crossed life yet there are lessons for Southern partisans within its story.

The Southern secession of 1861 did not have overt religious roots. However, it can be successfully argued that the underlying metaphors involved in the secession of the 13 Southern states can be traced to the aspects of the Original Constitution informed by Judeo-Christian ideology. That discussion is outside the scope of this piece but there is general agreement within this readership to the veracity of that statement.

The claim that Southern secession was a political movement is evident to anyone who has taken time to study the situation. The desire for a working framework of federalism and a voluntary confederation of sovereign states opposed to Lincolnian centralism is overtly political. It is the heart of the ensuing conflict of the War Between the States: to this day.

These days there is not a comprehensive policy for the scope or procedure under which a Southern homeland might be founded. Yet there is a general idea of geographical territory involved in a model nation. There is also a broad notion that a Southern state would be based on defined concepts of Judeo-Christian ideology. Herzl must have experienced a similar formative period.

By saying that these general ideas have common ground with the historic concepts of Zionism is not a net negative. The components of Zionism were both political and spiritual. Whatever else one might say about Marx his political analysis of the situation the Hebrew people in Europe found themselves as detailed in Zur Judenfrage was on the mark. He rightly summarized that through economic and geographical means the Jews could be emancipated from the oppression of the state and the monarchy in Europe.

Then Herzl came along and said that there was a historic connection of “blood and land” with the actual territory of Palestine. The bond he speaks of is a mystical connection, part of the web of life that includes all people but can also encapsulate a defined group from oppression. That is to say if a Jewish identity is to survive within the global continuum then it must do so as a discreet entity while maintaining a connection to the material world through politics: a distinct cell within the web of humanity if you like.

Today the Christian Exodus movement is a strong echo of Herzl’s religious/political argument. This is what they say about themselves:

“ desires the return of constitutionally limited government to the whole of these United States. Recent years suggest that no such return to constitutional principles is likely. Therefore, we will return such principles to one sovereign State by moving thousands of Christian paleo-conservatives.

South Carolina can secure the rights of her citizens by interposing her authority under the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The federal government operates outside its delegated powers in the areas of education, religion, abortion, domestic behavior, intrastate communication, intrastate commerce, taxation, welfare, healthcare, gun regulation, and a host of other subjects. Most powers concerning these topics are reserved to the States under the 10th Amendment. Therefore, we will see to it that South Carolina resumes her governmental authority in these matters and that our counties and State ignore federal directives in violation of the 10th Amendment. will continue to move Christians into South Carolina until constitutionalists possess a representative majority in both houses of the General Assembly. Such a strategy will make the sovereignty debate public, and the influence of our membership will tip the scales in favor of constitutionally limited government founded upon Christian principles.”

Although the revanchism implicit in Zionist thinking is missing a similar religious/political argument is present. These elements are also implied to the broader mission of Southern nationalism which sets it apart from the exclusively political motives of simple state secessionists like Vermont.

The notion that there are similarities between historical Zionism and Southern secession is a positive when considering the critics of the movement. The United States State Department has also supported Zionism and its creation as well as Israel’s right to exist. It can be argued by any sane person that a political-religious-cultural movement desiring an independent state is completely legitimate. To argue otherwise is to be against the concept of Zionism and blatantly anti-Semitic.

The State Department has already accepted national secession as a legitimate right of a people with its endorsement of Kosovo. The support of the State Department for Zionist Israel must be necessarily considered when discussing similar movements in this country. The acknowledged international concept of Zionism although somewhat different from the aspirations of Christian Exodus (for example) becomes an umbrella for the legitimacy of any Southern autonomy in regards to State Department policy and United States policy by extension. Certainly the United Nations and other international bodies have accepted sovereignty on lesser grounds.

On the occasion of its 60th anniversary by closely examining the rights given to the Zionists and the Israeli state one can conclude that their struggle for separate statehood is nearly identical in its legitimacy to the struggle of the Christian South. Although the foundations of European Zionism is on our mind today this kind of movement is not at all unique in history.

Looking at the broader view the accretion of influence into a concentrated geographical locale by like minded people was also the root of the American Revolution and separation from Britain. The story of Zionism and Israel is just one more example of how a people can fulfill a dream if dedicated enough. Just because the narrative of Zionism has some negative connotations is no reason for dismissing the lessons learned and the precedents set.


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