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Archive for March 16th, 2014

Pen Portraits- Theodor Herzl
Theodor Herzl (1860-1904)
founder of the political form of Zionism, a movement to establish a Jewish homeland. His pamphlet The Jewish State (1896) proposed that the Jewish question was a political question to be settled by a world council of nations. He organized a world congress of Zionists that met in Basel, Switz., in August 1897 and became first president of the World Zionist Organization, established by the congress. Although Herzl died more than 40 years before the establishment of the State of Israel, he was an indefatigable organizer, propagandist without whose vision the state of Israel might have turned out altogether different and out of step with the times.

A Jew in name but in all other things totally assimilated into the prevailing consciousness of Germanic culture as an ideal,he even joined a fencing club Albia in his Vienna days to prove he was unlike the typical Jew bred in the dingy ghetto. 1881 pogrom in Tsarist Russia coincided with closer at home politicians of the Right and Catholic clergy inveighing against liberalism that had given Jews certain exceptions. The Church of Rome had singled the Jews for their ire since they supported Bismarck’s anti-clerical policies. The changing political climate was something like the verse from the Exodus. ‘There arose up a new king over Egypt who knew not Joseph.'(ex.1:8)
It is however difficult not to bring in Moses for comparison. The original Moses turned back on the Egyptian culture but Herzl wanted to create a secular nation than a Jewish homeland revolving about the Torah. He did not even believe Moses as the author of Penteteuch. He was a Reluctant Moses who set out achieve his goal once he was sure of the vast scope of his mission. It appealed to the dreamer in him, and the oversized ego that equalled matched his commanding presence.

Born and brought up in the dual monarchies of Austro-Hungarian empire he spoke German and not Hungarian. Born to parents who were well to do (assimilated in secular ideals) he preferred literary fame above all. Among earliest of his heroes none were of Jewish persuasion. In his youth he had seen the Iron Chancellor creating a grand German Federation and in his life mission it must have unconsciously served as the template. Pan-Germanism was inclusive of all peoples subscribing to German culture that cut across various client states about Berlin. Growing up in Vienna Herzl was well tuned to the growing trends. There was also anti-semitism running into all levels of the society. As a reporter in Paris during the Dreyfus Affair he realized there was no other way to recast the proverbial Shylock image into a citizen of the world. It would require a nation. People don’t change from within, but change their social structure they would also change, a dictum that seems very valid. There were quite many detractors but it certainly speaks of the optimism and impermeable spirit of the man to stay his course.
In a sense his dedication to the cause to which personally he had great antipathy but nevertheless a great cause to give his all, makes him ‘King’ Herzl. He is rightly called the father of the nation of Israel.
benny

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Today Crimea is seeking referendum in a move to break away from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.

Western powers have denounced the hastily organized referendum as illegal.

Some 59 percent of Crimea’s 2 million inhabitants are ethnic Russians, the minority question which has bedeviled since the early 19 th century resonates even this very day. Nationalism of Hungary Italy against monarchies have not yet sorted the friction between majority rights and minority rule. How the nation-builders got their act wrong we can see at the Paris peace conference after World War I.

That war felled the Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires, bequeathing to the Allied victors a hotch-potch of ethnic and cultural identities clamoring for statehood. The peace pitted Wilson’s “imperative principle” of self-government for formerly subject peoples was to stop the customary tendency of European statesmen sitting over fine dining and a smoke in the billiard room redrawing maps as though it were toting up gambling losses.

The U.S. President’s principle somehow didn’t extend to Ukraine. His opposition to a sovereign Ukrainian state was backed by the British and French, supporters of anti-Bolshevik forces in the civil war in the wake of 1917 revolution.While the Paris peacemakers bestowed statehood on the likes of Czechoslovakia and Hungary Ukraine was left to be fought over by Poland and Russia. Poland seized swathes of Ukraine’s territory and the rest was swallowed up in the newly formed Soviet Union,1922.

(British Prime Minister David Lloyd George said he had glimpsed a Ukrainian only once in his life “and I am not sure that I want to see any more,” Margaret MacMillan wrote in her 2001 book, “Peacemakers.”)

To be fair to the high-minded President Wilson he was hoping the resurgent Russian empire would reverse the Bolshevik takeover. Something we have seen similarly in the Middle East. Wave democracy for all your worth the region shall be all the better for it.

Wilson’s tactics in 1919, and the West’s ambivalence toward Ukraine after it finally broke free of Soviet control in 1991, show the limited options available to the U.S. and its allies in response.

Note: One supplicant inspired by what Wilson called “the sacredness of the right of self-determination” was Nguyen Tat Thanh. The man later known as Ho Chi Minh petitioned the conference to grant Indochina independence from France. Wilson never replied, according to “The Wilsonian Moment,” a 2007 book by Erez Manela, a Harvard University history professor.
A surgeon’s mistake is covered by a tombstone. What if a statesman makes a blunder? Mass graves as one sees in Vietnam and elsewhere make any personal tombstone redundant. ( ack:James G. Neuger /bloomber.net)

benny

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