HERZL'S VISION by Shlomo Avineri


Theodor Herzl and the Foundation of the Jewish State
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A fresh study of the deeply prescient thought of this visionary journalist, playwright and founding Zionist.

This is not an intimate look at Theodor Herzl’s life (1860-1904) but rather a knowledgeable exploration of the evolution of his thought about the establishment of a Jewish state. Avineri (Political Science/Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem; Moses Hess: The Holy History of Mankind and Other Writings, 2005, etc.) jumps right to the quick: The Hungarian-born, German-speaking Jewish editor for the Viennese Neue Freie Presse was not the first to advocate for a Jewish nation-state; Moses Hess and Leo Pinsker had notably preceded him (though Herzl did not read either of their works until later). In the latter decades of the 19th century, when Herzl came of age, Jews had moved from the margins of Western and Central European society to the pinnacles of achievement in the professions and arts. Yet their very success “was seen as threatening,” especially in German-speaking lands, leading to the first tremors of anti-Semitism as early as 1817. As a former law student, Herzl wrote firsthand on these persistent outbreaks of anti-Semitism—e.g., the scandals surrounding the Panama Canal and the Dreyfus Affair. However, contrary to popular mythology regarding Herzl’s life, it was his reading of Eugen Dühring’s 1881 essay, “The Jewish Question as a Racial, Moral, and Cultural Issue,” which outlined the inferiority of Jews, that convinced Herzl of the failure of Jewish emancipation. Influenced by the currents of nationalism and worried about the huge Jewish population within a disintegrating Austro-Hungarian regime, Herzl wrote the enormously influential pamphlet The Jewish State (1896) and became, overnight, a politician for a Jewish homeland, galvanizing the Jewish Congress in Basel. Avineri briefly sketches how Herzl tirelessly rallied leaders from the highest echelons by flattering, bribing and cajoling—in an astonishingly short period of time.

Rigorous research gathered in a succinct presentation renders this an excellent resource.

Pub Date: Nov. 11th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1933346984
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: BlueBridge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2014


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