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.