In this column, we have journeyed through over 3,000 years of Jewish history, leaning on the insight of Theodor Herzl. With today’s Magazine marking the 90th anniversary of The Jerusalem Post, it is only natural to place the newspaper in the context of history.
The beginning of the end of Judaism 1.0 – when Judaism was anchored in the Temple and the physical presence in Judea – came as Europeans invaded Judea. Unlike the local wars described in the Bible and in historical accounts, the Greeks and then the Romans sought to end Judaism – to force their “European values.”
When this failed, the Romans destroyed the Temple and deported the Jews from Jerusalem, and then from Judea. Judaism had to transform in order to survive, and indeed it has. For the next 2,000 years it had an internal anchor of religiosity (Rabbinic Judaism) and an external one of complete insularity.
The beginning of the end of Judaism 2.0 came as those two anchors were fading. Yet, just as the religious anchor of the Jewish nation-religion was eroding, its national aspect was ascending.
Theodor Herzl launched the Zionist movement in 1897, and within 20 years his vision was about to come to fruition. The British issued the Balfour Declaration and were later given a mandate for Palestine – core to which was to usher in a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
Indeed, when The Jerusalem Post (then The Palestine Post) was first published, it was merely 12 years after the prospect of a utopian Middle East was shuttered by yet another European invader – this time, France.
1920: Toward a utopian Middle East
The year 1920 symbolized the fulfillment of Herzl’s vision – a Jewish state in the making in Palestine living side by side next to a pro-Zionist Arab kingdom in Syria. The Hashemite Arab Kingdom of Syria was led by King Faisal. Not only was Faisal a Zionist, but he also lobbied the world powers during the 1919 Paris Peace Conference for the Zionist cause.
Faisal was the consensus Arab leader of the region, and still the British chose to conduct additional due diligence. They tasked T.E. Lawrence – Lawrence of Arabia – with checking Arab sentiment toward Zionism. Lawrence confirmed that Zionism had broad Arab support. This was very much in line with Herzl’s vision.
Yet Herzl, who died in 1904, also predicted something else: Europe will never leave the Jews alone. He warned that European animosity would follow the Jews even after they left Europe. He wrote in 1895: “In the first 25 years of our existence we need, for our development, some rest from Europe, its wars and social complications.” Stunningly, exactly 25 years after Herzl wrote this, Europe ended its “rest” and exported its cherished obsession with war to the Middle East.
European intervention begins
France defied international law and invaded the Arab kingdom in 1920, ending the trajectory toward the Herzl-envisioned peaceful Middle East.
France argued that this Arab land of Syria belonged to them. This was not based on a historic connection of the French people to Syria. To be fair, there was a French presence in Syria during the 19th century, and French diplomats even exported the European concept of Jew-hatred overseas to the local Arab population when French diplomats instigated the 1840 “Damascus Blood Libels.”
Blood libels tend to be associated with the Middle Ages, such as the 12th-century accusation that Jews murdered a child in Norwich, England, for religious rituals; but European diplomats were able to not only export but also adapt the well-tested anti-Jewish fable to local and contemporary circumstances and accused the Jews in Syria of murdering a monk. (Some argue that such exporting and adaptation of European blood libels continues today, such as with the fable that Jews murdered a journalist.)
France’s claim to Syria was based on colonialist dealings that took place between a mid-level French foreign-office official named Francois Picot and Mark Sykes of the UK.
Based on this claim, France set in motion precisely what Herzl warned was the European obsession – war! France’s invasion of Syria led to the removal of the Arab monarch from Syria. This led to a series of events that shaped today’s Middle East: To compensate the Hashemite Arab king of Syria, the British carved Palestine into two.
They reduced the vision of the “two-state solution” from a Jewish state in Palestine living side by side next to an Arab kingdom in Syria – to a Jewish state in half of Palestine (west of the Jordan river) living next to an Arab Hashemite kingdom in the other half of Palestine (east of the Jordan river).
The territory that was once promised to the Jews is today the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which just like its Syrian predecessor, is now a strong ally and friend of the Jewish state.
That same French invasion also led to the 1920 Tel Chai events – the first shots in what later became known as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Jews’ attempt to stay neutral did not work. Local Arab Bedouin thought that the Jews of Tel Chai were hiding French soldiers. In what some historians attribute to a series of misunderstandings, fighting ensued and eight Jews were killed, including iconic Zionist activist Yosef Trumpeldor.
Incidentally, similar circumstances occurred a century later in the 2020s, with France insisting (quite theatrically) that Jerusalem and Bethlehem should be taken away from Israelis and Palestinians. In this scenario, the city would be turned into an occupied entity controlled by the “international community,” (aka Europe), with the Church of Saint Anne carved out of this “make-believe colony,” and be given to the sole possession of France, based on France’s colonialist dealings with the Ottoman Empire.
‘Jerusalem Post’ at 90 – European intervention intensifies
This historical backdrop of the years leading to the establishment of The Jerusalem Post continues as it celebrates its 90th anniversary. In the last two decades, Europe invested billions of dollars to nurture the Palestinian plight and turn it into what by now has become the autonomous movement of occupationalism, independent of Palestine interests.
As discussed in this column, occupationalists, led by the European Union, aggressively block Palestinians’ employment in Jewish-owned businesses, mentorship in Israeli hi-tech companies, residence in mixed Jewish-Arab neighborhoods, and even purchase of products in Israeli stores.
But there is hope. Herzl predicted that the Jewish state would one day get the adamant support of the world – not due to Europe’s moral consciousness but because it would become the necessity of the world. Indeed, today humanity is advanced through the Jewish state, through Zionism. (See last month’s article “Anti-Zionism is anti-humanity.”)
Toward ‘Jerusalem Post’ at 100: A hope for peace?
As the Arab world recognizes this and increasingly partakes in the success of the Jewish state, the historic question is triggered: Will Europe end its 100-year-old disruptive intervention that existed since The Jerusalem Post has been in existence? Moreover, can Europe have the courage to end its bigger woe: the 2,300-year-old European-Israeli conflict, which dates back to the European invasion of Judea; continues with the European deportation of Jews from their land; then 2,000 years of the European abusive and murderous persecution of Jewish refugees in Europe; and today, with the yet-to-be explained zealous European obsession with the Israeli-Arab conflict, its instigation and massive investment in conflict-perpetuation?
To find out, we will need to wait for The Jerusalem Post’s 100th-anniversary issue.
The writer is the author of Judaism 3.0: Judaism’s Transformation to Zionism (Judaism-Zionism.com).