Palestine in a Transnational Context

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With this book, Chiara De Cesari examines these Palestinian heritage projects—notably the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee, Riwaq, and the Palestinian Museum—and the transnational actors, practices, and material sites they mobilize to create new institutions in the absence of a sovereign state.


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Through their rehabilitation of Palestinian heritage, these organizations have halted the expansion of Israeli settlements. They have also given Palestinians opportunities to rethink and transform state functions.

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Heritage and the Cultural Struggle for Palestine reveals how the West Bank is home to creative experimentation, insurgent agencies, and resourceful attempts to reverse colonial violence—and a model of how things could be. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in cultural and architectural heritage, urban transformation, museums, or landscape—and how these are used to counter dispossession. In the Jewish communities of many European countries, groups formed which supported the Zionist idea and which, in different ways, worked for the realization of that idea.

The Jewish national movement emerged from cooperation between individuals and groups across borders. In this process, a multitude of ideologies and concepts developed, which sometimes led to the formation of new groups, and sometimes resulted in the acknowledgement of division. This article deals with the history of Zionism in the decades before the First World War, while focussing on the emergence, function and effect of communication and interaction across national borders.

Transnational Migration to Israel in Global Comparative Context

In particular, the article will concentrate on processes of interconnection and network-building which occurred in the context of tension between allegiance to the Jewish nation, rootedness in the nation state, and the cross-border, transnational activities of the Zionists.

In the second half of the 19th century, a variety of factors led to the development and spread of Zionist ideas, and subsequently to the emergence of a national movement with concrete organizational structures. However, this threat cannot be considered the sole cause of the emergence of Zionist attitudes. Jewish communities in Europe had experienced several other periods of persecution over the centuries which had not resulted in such a growth in support for the idea of founding a Jewish state and for efforts to colonize Palestine.

In the lateth century, however, this threat was accompanied by other processes, some of which affected the Jewish population alone, and some of which were general European phenomena. In spite of the considerable differences between the Jewish communities in the various European countries, these processes also produced factors which promoted cross-border interactions. In the 19th century, the Jewish Diaspora was spread over many countries, though by far the largest concentrations of the Jewish population worldwide were situated in eastern Europe, east-central Europe and south-eastern Europe.

Both the legal status of Jewish communities and their internal development differed considerably from region to region. In western Europe , the process of emancipation was well advanced by the end of the 19th century. Legal equality gave Jews new opportunities to integrate themselves economically. However, social integration often proved considerably more difficult. The living conditions of Jews in eastern Europe had undergone far-reaching changes since the partitions of Poland in the lateth century had carved up the Jewish settlement region which had previously belonged to the kingdom of Poland-Lithuania.

Transnational Activism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The Jewish communities of this settlement region were now divided between the Habsburg Empire , Prussia and the Russian Empire, and were thus subject to different legal codes. As a result, the Jewish communities in each of these jurisdictions developed differently. In the territories under Austrian and Russian rule, special forms of taxation, exclusions in the commercial sphere, and restrictions on settlement resulted in the increasing impoverishment of the Jewish population.

In , Austria extended legal equality to the Jewish population living in the formerly Polish region of Galicia and in the Bukovina , which had previously belonged to the Ottoman Empire. However, no such emancipation was granted to the Jews in the Russian Empire. The Jewish population in western Europe reacted to the challenges posed by modernity by making greater efforts to integrate, which often meant that Jewish traditions were abandoned. In eastern Europe, by contrast, state restrictions on Jewish settlement, which hampered the migration of Jews into the large cities, and other factors meant that relatively autonomous Jewish communities which retained collective structures far beyond the religious sphere continued to exist on the margin of the majority populations.

Parallel to these, a small secular intellectual Jewish elite formed, which initially set its sights on integration and emancipation. In addition to industrialization and the consequent changes in the lives of the Jewish communities in Europe, the growth of nationalism among the majority populations among which the Jews lived posed a considerable challenge for Jews, both in western and eastern Europe. However, the reactions to this challenge varied.

For many Jews in western Europe, entry into modern societies meant redefining their Jewish existence on a purely confessional basis. While religion had previously strongly influenced all spheres of life among the Jewish population and had been a central factor of identity, a tendency towards acculturation and assimilation spread as a result of increasing secularization. This tendency gave rise to a new mode of self-definition for many Jews in western Europe: They saw themselves as belonging to the nation among which they lived and began to define themselves as Germans or Englishmen or Frenchmen of Jewish faith.

However, no such frame of reference existed for the various Jewish communities in the multi-ethnic empires of the Habsburgs and the Romanovs. As nationalist tendencies in the majority populations were often accompanied by anti-Semitic attitudes which — primarily in eastern Europe — repeatedly expressed themselves in pogroms against the Jewish population, many Jews sought to escape the threat of persecution, impoverishment and legal inequality through emigration.

The USA attracted many Jewish migrants in the last decades of the 19th century, but Jews from eastern Europe also migrated to western European states. Massive restrictions in education caused many Jewish students to leave their country of origin to attend university in western Europe.

The high degree of mobility among the Jewish population is evidenced by the many "international" biographies — not only of members of the Jewish intelligentsia. As a result of the dire circumstances of the Jewish population in eastern Europe and the pressure to emigrate, various philanthropic initiatives, some of which were organized on a cross-border basis, emerged from the midth century to give humanitarian assistance and to organize emigration.

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Cross-border exchange also occurred in the border regions which the partitions of Poland had created in the previously undivided Jewish settlement regions. In the context of the dissolution of traditional Jewish existences and as a result of the spread of nationalism among the peoples among whom they lived, members of the Jewish minority increasingly discussed the question of their own identity. In addition to those who continued to advocate integration into the majority populations, and devout Jews, who largely cut themselves off from life outside their religious communities, another very heterogeneous group emerged which thought of the Jews as a nation in the modern sense.

Some members of this group set their sights on a form of autonomy within the Diaspora, while others promoted the idea of the foundation of a nation state for the Jews. The idea of a return to Eretz Israel had always existed among the Jews living in the Diaspora. This idea was expressed in prayers and was often connected with messianic ideas — with the yearning for a reunification of the Jews in Israel , in Zion, 3 and the coming of the Messiah.

However, although there had always been Jews in Palestine, and Zion had always had a central significance as the symbol of the origins of Judaism, of Jewish unity and of redemption, until well into the 19th century there had been no mass migration to Palestine and no plans to prepare for the beginning of the messianic age by founding a new kingdom in Palestine. Indeed, such actions would have contradicted the religious belief that it was God who would lead the Jews home and redeem them, and would have constituted an attempt by humans to pre-empt the will of God.

From the Middle Ages, the idea of founding a Jewish state had been mooted a number of times — sometimes by Christians, and sometimes by Jews as a form of protection against persecution. However, the idea received not much support and, as a result, had little effect. Not surprisingly, the first modern Zionist plans, which remained heavily influenced by religion, originated in regions where conflict between different nationalities was particularly virulent in the middle of the 19th century, but which were also interfaces between Jewish life in the west and the east.

In , Zvi Hirsch Kalischer — , who was born in Poznan Posen and worked as a rabbi in Torun Thorn , published the treatise Drishat Zion "Seeking Zion" in Hebrew , which was reprinted several times during his lifetime.

In it, he not only advocated the return of the Jews to Eretz Israel and the colonization of the land, but even suggested concrete preparatory steps. However, he clearly viewed the Jewish problem as a national problem. In his book Rom und Jerusalem. The Last Nationality Question of , he called for the creation of a Jewish-socialist polity in Palestine, and he equated these efforts with the movements for national independence of the 19th century. Efforts to settle Jews in Palestine thus initially remained the preserve of the philanthropic initiatives, though cross-border contact between individual Zionist thinkers had already been established.

Such concepts only gained broader resonance as a result of the waves of pogroms in the Russian Empire. In the context of deteriorating living conditions for Jews in eastern Europe and mass migration westward, and before a background of anti-Semitism also in western Europe and the fear of its further intensification as a result of the immigration of eastern Jews, a consciousness spread among the Jewish communities of many countries in the last two decades of the 19th century: many now felt that they faced a challenge which threatened them all and which required unified action.

Supporting the colonization of Palestine was considered as one possible path. However, this path was not only in itself controversial. Even among its advocates, there was disagreement, in particular, over whether colonization should be accompanied by efforts to promote a Jewish nation and calls for a Jewish state. In many cities in the Russian Empire, small groups of supporters of the Zionist idea were formed in the early s.

With their support, a group of students from Kharkov settled in Palestine.


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In the subsequent years, further colonies were established by Jews from the Russian Empire and Romania. In this context, the ideas of the Odessa doctor Leon Pinsker — [ ] gained considerable support. Influenced by the pogroms in the Russian Empire, he had come to the view that only a re-nationalization of the Jews and the re-establishment of a territory for the Jews could help to resolve the problems of the Jewish population. Even before he committed his ideas to paper, Pinsker toured the European capitals and conversed with Jewish intellectuals and community leaders.

Almost everywhere, however, his ideas were met with indifference or outright rejection.

Heritage and the Cultural Struggle for Palestine | Chiara De Cesari

Only the London lawyer and member of parliament Arthur Cohen — encouraged him to write down his ideas and publish them. Pinsker published his pamphlet "Autoemancipation! He believed this phobia was caused by the fact that these peoples found the Jews ominous because they were a nation which continued to exist only as an intellectual and spiritual entity without the existence of a state. With his absolute rejection of the possibility of the emancipation of the Jews within Europe and his new interpretation of the Jewish nation, Pinsker's musings went far beyond an attempt to alleviate the misery of the Jewish population in eastern Europe.

Jews in Germany , in particular, saw this pamphlet, which was published in Berlin, as a challenge to them and an attack on their concept of themselves as "Germans of Jewish faith". Most German reviewers rejected the ideas of the author with varying degrees of zeal. The rabbi and writer Ludwig Philippson — defended efforts to integrate by stating that it was the destiny of the Jews "innerhalb der Nationen zu leben und sich diesen zu amalgamieren durch das Vaterland, in welchem sie geboren, durch die Sprache, die ihre Muttersprache ist, durch die Volksbildung und den in dieser waltenden nationalen Geist In the Russian Empire, on the other hand, reactions were much more positive.


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It was subsequently translated into Yiddish and many other languages. In , Pinsker became president of the association of Hovevei Zion societies, which was founded in Odessa. Together with the societies founded in Congress Poland, he sought to expand the movement and intensify contact across borders.

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There it became clear that the idea of the colonization of Palestine had supporters also in western Europe, but these were sceptical of Pinsker's national tendencies. Newspaper for the National, Social and Political Interests of the Jewish People , which Nathan Birnbaum — founded there in having been inspired by Pinsker's pamphlet.

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Settlement efforts in Palestine faced serious problems in the early s. Due to the difficult living conditions and the lack of agricultural knowledge, the settlements remained dependent on the financial and administrative assistance of European institutions, and efforts to establish an organizational or political basis upon which further settlement could occur proved unsuccessful.