Mark Twain on Herzl’s Zionist Idea

Ocean Guy has some fascinating posts on Mark Twain and the Jewish Question, especially his thoughts on Herzl and the Zionist project, written in 1898. At the end of the post, after citing the fullsome praise that Twain heaped on the Jews for the accomplishments far byond their numbers (cf. the French reaction to 20% of public figures) he comes to a question:

I want to finish with a question arising from this excerpt, with Twain commenting on Theodore Herzl’s Zionism and offering advice to American Jews

    You seem to think that the Jews take no hand in politics here, that they are “absolutely non-participants.” I am assured by men competent to speak that this is a very large error, that the Jews are exceedingly active in politics all over the empire, but that they scatter their work and their votes among the numerous parties, and thus lose the advantages to be had by concentration. I think that in America they scatter too, but you know more about that than I do.

    Speaking of concentration, Dr. Herzl has a clear insight into the value of that. Have you heard of his plan? He wishes to gather the Jews of the world together in Palestine, with a government of their own – under the suzerainty of the Sultan, I suppose. At the Convention of Berne, last year, there were delegates from everywhere, and the proposal was received with decided favor. I am not the Sultan, and I am not objecting; but if that concentration of the cunningest brains in the world were going to be made in a free country (bar Scotland), I think it would be politic to stop it. It will not be well to let the race find out its strength. If the horses knew theirs, we should not ride any more.

Have Jews taken Mark Twain’s advice, or not?

It seems to me that Twain only indirectly advises the Jews to unite in one party to make the most of their political strength, Herzl’s idea being an expression of that direction. The actual advice he gives, with his typical ironic distance, is not to Jews but to gentiles, warning them not to let the Jews unite in one place because, once they discover how to unite, and given how talented and smart they are, they will be difficult to control… and certainly to exploit (i.e., the horse analogy).

On one level, Israel illustrates so much of what Twain would have anticipated, with its exceptional economic and cultural accomplishments. Even in military history, Israel has rewritten several chapters of the grand narrative, including “purity of arms” and strategy. The comparison of the accomplishments of 12 million Jews to 300 million Arabs is understandably embarrassing.

On another level Twain’s remarks could be taken as a warning to Herzl that his messianic model of putting an end to anti-Semitism by ending the Jews’ role as pariah, as stateless cosmopolitan, might actually backfire. That the world would view Jewish unity with even greater alarm than their dispersion and political powerlessness among the nations. And he wrote before the Protocols of the Elders had even appeared (1905), inaugurating a new age of paranoia about Jewish power.

In a sense, the world has taken Twain’s (I think sarcastic) advice. Forced by the Holocaust to recognize Israel, Western foreign policy, especially European, has nonetheless seen to it that Israel has lived a life harried from the outset, constantly besieged by war and terror. Here the Arab obsession with their humiliation and their burning desire to wash it clean with Israeli blood played right into the hands of anti-Semites who could no longer express their feelings directly. Arab violence could serve as a proxy, and the Judeophobe could hide in his own private world surrounded by claims of moral concern for the poor oppressed Palestinians and outrage at the appalling behavior of these “armed” Jews. Sure, such exploitation of Arab psychological weakness meant that the Palestinians must suffer as sacrificial victims to that need to harry Israel. But what’s a million (now five million) Arab lives, when you can handicap the the Jewish State?

And yet, despite the enormous amount of time, energy and money that Israel has to put into her defense systems (3 years from every man’s, 1.5 from every woman’s lives; extremely high taxes), she still managed to take an area of the globe that was the bottom of the “third world” when Twain and Herzl wrote, to the top of the first world by the year 2000. How frustrating to the Europeans! No wonder they resent Israel so. No wonder Israel drives them into paroxysms of moral hysteria.

5 Responses to Mark Twain on Herzl’s Zionist Idea

  1. Oceanguy says:

    I think Twain’s comments foretell the difficulty in ridding the world of anti-Semitism.

    In the first article, which stimulated this response, Twain gave the impression of Austrian Jews being largely apolitical. He answers the American Jewish Lawyer that it is NOT the case in America, but that Jews had no unified positions. He suggests concentration of Jewish voices to affect politics.

    I think it can be argued both ways: that American Jews have and that they have NOT taken that advice. Certainly Walt and Mearsheimer would argue that the advice was taken. I’m more of the opinion that it was not. Even the creation of Israel, the diversity of political beliefs there demonstrates how difficult it is to “concentrate.” Instead we have, largely what we’ve had for centuries: Europe and the civilized world defining Jewish thought for themselves, with little regard to Jewish thought.

    Even the example of Israel’s success, we seem to be swimming against the tide. What is keeping Twain’s words from being completely correct is that we Jews have yet to really discover or understand our strength.

  2. RL says:

    i think part of the strength of the jews comes precisely from their lack of unity, from their constant engagement in controversy, dispute… creative discord, their “two people, three synagogues” mentality. it the ability for “give and take” in such painful things as criticism that give depth and vigor to the discussion.

    among other things, jews are the least likely people to show the pattern described by taguieff — when all the fishes are swimming in the same direction, it’s because they’re dead.

    but in the short run, this divisiveness (and readiness to self-criticize) can seem frustrating. israel has the strength to conquer the whole middle east and monopolize its oil… it just doesn’t have the will to be sufficiently ruthless to do it. that’s what Twain may not have known, but the composers of the Protocols and the Arabs don’t understand. in their fevered fear of Jewish/Israeli power, all they can see is a projected image of their own craving for dominion.

  3. quantuum says:

    Most of the strength of the Jews comes from their unholy alliance with the Freemasons and Queen Elizabeth….

  4. Antidhimmi says:

    Last time I met with the Queen and Chief Freemason they were furious and said this alliance story is a canard. The Queen also mentioned that if it happened she must have been drunk at the time. The Freemason guy said it was a secret and whoever revealed it would be turned over to Opus Dei for proper punishment. In any event – it’s false and if you want proof ask the Rothschilds and Warburgs. Bill Clinton also knows the truth and he’s told the Pope about it but neither of them will talk.

  5. RL says:

    you think this is funny? there are people who take it deadly seriously. so laugh your way to the morgue you jokesters.

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