The Jewish State
By Theodor Herzl
The Jewish Question
No one can deny the gravity of the situation of the Jews.
Wherever they live in perceptible numbers, they are more or less persecuted.
Their equality before the law, granted by statute, has become practically a
dead letter. They are debarred from filling even moderately high positions,
either in the army, or in any public or private capacity. And attempts are
made to thrust them out of business also: "Don't buy from Jews!"
Attacks in Parliaments, in assemblies, in the press, in the
pulpit, in the street, on journeys--for example, their exclusion from certain
hotels--even in places of recreation, become daily more numerous. The forms of
persecution varying according to the countries and social circles in which
they occur. In Russia, imposts are levied on Jewish villages; in Rumania, a
few persons are put to death; in Germany, they get a good beating
occasionally; in Austria, Anti-Semites exercise terrorism over all public
life; in Algeria, there are traveling agitators; in Paris, the Jews are shut
out of the so-called best social circles and excluded from clubs. Shades of
anti-Jewish feeling are innumerable. But this is not to be an attempt to make
out a doleful category of Jewish hardships.
I do not intend to arouse sympathetic emotions on our
behalf. That would be foolish, futile, and undignified proceeding. I shall
content myself with putting the following questions to the Jews: Is it not
true that, in countries where we live in perceptible numbers, the position of
Jewish lawyers, doctors, technicians, teachers, and employees of all
descriptions becomes daily more intolerable? Is it not true, that the Jewish
middle classes are seriously threatened? Is it not true, that the passions of
the mob are incited against our wealthy people? Is it not true, that our poor
endure greater sufferings than any other proletariat? I think that this
external pressure makes itself felt everywhere. In our economically upper
classes it causes discomfort, in our middle classes continual and grave
anxieties, in our lower classes absolute despair.
Everything tends, in fact, to one and the same conclusion,
which is clearly enunciated in that classic Berlin phrase: "Juden Raus"
(Out with the Jews !)
shall now put the Question in the briefest possible form:
Are we to "get out" now and where to?
Or, may we yet remain? And, how long?
Let us first settle the point of staying where we are. Can
we hope for better days, can we possess our souls in patience, can we wait in
pious resignation till the princes and peoples of this earth are more
mercifully disposed towards us? I say that we cannot hope for a change in the
current of feeling. And why not? Even if we were as near to the hearts of
princes as are their other subjects, they could not protect us. They would
only feel popular hatred by showing us too much favor. By "too
much," I really mean less than is claimed as a right by every ordinary
citizen, or by every race. The nations in whose midst Jews live are all either
covertly or openly Anti-Semitic.
The common people have not, and indeed cannot have, any
historic comprehension. They do not know that the sins of the Middle Ages are
now being visited on the nations of Europe. We are what the Ghetto made us. We
have attained pre-eminence in finance, because mediaeval conditions drove us
to it. The same process is now being repeated. We are again being forced into
finance, now it is the stock exchange, by being kept out of other branches of
economic activity. Being on the stock exchange, we are consequently exposed
afresh to contempt. At the same time we continue to produce an abundance of
mediocre intellects who find no outlet, and this endangers our social position
as much as does our increasing wealth. Educated Jews without means are now
rapidly becoming Socialists. Hence we are certain to suffer very severely in
the struggle between classes, because we stand in the most exposed position in
the camps of both Socialists and capitalists.
PREVIOUS ATTEMPTS AT A SOLUTION
The artificial means heretofore employed to overcome the
troubles of Jews have been either too petty -- such as attempts at
colonization -- or attempts to convert the Jews into peasants in their present
homes. What is achieved by transporting a few thousand Jews to another
country? Either they come to grief at once, or prosper, and then their
prosperity creates Anti-Semitism. We have already discussed these attempts to
divert poor Jews to fresh districts. This diversion is clearly inadequate and
futile, if it does not actually defeat its own ends; for it merely protracts
and postpones a solution, and perhaps even aggravates difficulties.
Whoever would attempt to convert the Jew into a hushandman
would be making an extraordinary mistake. For a peasant is in a historical
category, as proved by his costume which in some countries he has worn for
centuries; and by his tools, which are identical with those used by his
earliest forefathers. His plough is unchanged; he carries the seed in his
apron; mows with the historical scythe, and threshes with the time-honored
flail. But we know that all this can be done by machinery. The agrarian
question is only a question of machinery. America must conquer Europe, in the
same way as large landed possessions absorb small ones. The peasant is
consequently a type which is in course of extinction. Whenever he is
artificially preserved, it is done on account of the political interests which
he is intended to serve. It is absurd, and indeed impossible, to make modern
peasants on the old pattern. No one is wealthy or powerful enough to make
civilization take a single retrograde step. The mere preservation of obsolete
institutions is a task severe enough to require the enforcement of all the
despotic measures of an autocratically governed State.
Are we, therefore, to credit Jews who are intelligent with
a desire to become peasants of the old type? One might just as well say to
them: "Here is a cross-bow: now go to war!" What? With a cross-bow,
while the others have rifles and long range guns? Under these circumstances
the Jews' are perfectly justified in refusing to stir when people try to make
peasants of them. A cross-bow is a beautiful weapon, which inspires me with
mournful feelings when I have time to devote to them. But it belongs by rights
to a museum. Now, there certainly are districts to which desperate Jews go
out, or at any rate, are willing to go out and till the soil. And a little
observation shows that these districts -- such as the enclave of Hesse in
Germany, and some provinces in Russia -- these very districts are the
principal seats of Anti-Semitism.
For the world's reformers, who send the Jews to the plough,
forget a very important person, who has a great deal to say on the matter.
This person is the agriculturist, and the agriculturist is also perfectly
justified. For the tax on land, the risks attached to crops, the pressure of
large proprietors who cheapen labor, and American competition in particular,
combine to make his life hard enough. Besides, the duties on corn cannot go on
increasing indefinitely. Nor can the manufacturer be allowed to starve; his
political influence is, in fact, in the ascendant, and he must therefore be
treated with additional consideration.
All these difficulties are well known, therefore I refer to
them only cursorily. I merely wanted to indicate clearly how futile had been
past attempts -- most of them well intentioned -- to solve the Jewish
Question. Neither a diversion of the stream, nor an artificial depression of
the intellectual level of our proletariat, will overcome the difficulty. The
supposed infallible expedient of assimilation has already been dealt with. We
cannot get the better of Anti-Semitism by any of these methods. It cannot die
out so long as its causes are not removed. Are they removable?
CAUSES OF ANTI-SEMITISM
We shall not again touch on those causes which are a result
of temperament, prejudice and narrow views, but shall here restrict ourselves
to political and economical causes alone. Modern Anti-Semitism is not to be
confounded with the religious persecution of the Jews of former times. It does
occasionally take a religious bias in some countries, but the main current of
the aggressive movement has now changed. In the principal countries where
Anti-Semitism prevails, it does so as a result of the emancipation of the
Jews. When civilized nations awoke to the inhumanity of discriminatory
legislation and enfranchised us, our enfranchisement came too late. It was no
longer possible to remove our disabilities in our old homes. For we had,
curiously enough, developed while in the Ghetto into a bourgeois people, and
we stepped out of it only to enter into fierce competition with the middle
classes. Hence, our emancipation set us suddenly within this middle-class
circle, where we have a double pressure to sustain, from within and from
without. The Christian bourgeoisie would not be unwilling to cast us as a
sacrifice to Socialism, though that would not greatly improve matters.
At the same time, the equal rights of Jews before the law
cannot be withdrawn where they have once been conceded. Not only because their
withdrawal would be opposed to the spirit of our age, but also because it
would immediately drive all Jews, rich and poor alike, into the ranks of
subversive parties. Nothing effectual can really be done to our injury. In
olden days our jewels were seized. How is our movable property to be got hold
of now? It consists of printed papers which are locked up somewhere or other
in the world, perhaps in the coffers of Christians. It is, of course, possible
to get at shares and debentures in railways, banks and industrial undertakings
of all descriptions by taxation, and where the progressive income-tax is in
force all our movable property can eventually be laid hold of. But all these
efforts cannot be directed against Jews alone, and wherever they might
nevertheless be made, severe economic crises would be their immediate
consequences, which would be by no means confined to the Jews who would be the
first affected. The very impossibility of getting at the Jews nourishes and
embitters hatred of them. Anti-Semitism increases day by day and hour by hour
among the nations; indeed, it is bound to increase, because the causes of its
growth continue to exist and cannot be removed. Its remote cause is our loss
of the power of assimilation during the Middle Ages; its immediate cause is
our excessive production of mediocre intellects, who cannot find an outlet
downwards or upwards -- that is to say, no wholesome outlet in either
direction. When we sink, we become a revolutionary proletariat, the
subordinate officers of all revolutionary parties; and at the same time, when
we rise, there rises also our terrible power of the purse.
EFFECTS OF ANTI-SEMITISM
The oppression we endure does not improve us, for we are
not a whit better than ordinary people. It is true that we do not love our
enemies; but he alone who can conquer himself dare reproach us with that
fault. Oppression naturally creates hostility against oppressors, and our
hostility aggravates the pressure. It is impossible to escape from this
"No!" Some soft-hearted visionaries will say:
"No, it is possible! Possible by means of the ultimate perfection of
s it necessary to point to the sentimental folly of this
view? He who would found his hope for improved conditions on the ultimate
perfection of humanity would indeed be relying upon a Utopia ! referred
previously to our "assimilation". I do not for a moment wish to
imply that I desire such an end. Our national character is too historically
famous, and, in spite of every degradation, too fine to make its annihilation
desirable. We might perhaps be able to merge ourselves entirely into
surrounding races, if these were to leave us in peace for a period of two
generations. But they will not leave us in peace. For a little period they
manage to tolerate us, and then their hostility breaks out again and again.
The world is provoked somehow by our prosperity, because it has for many
centuries been accustomed to consider us as the most contemptible among the
poverty-stricken. In its ignorance and narrowness of heart, it fails to
observe that prosperity weakens our Judaism and extinguishes our
peculiarities. It is only pressure that forces us back to the parent stem; it
is only hatred encompassing us that makes us strangers once more. Thus,
whether we like it or not, we are now, and shall henceforth remain, a historic
group with unmistakable characteristics common to us all.
We are one people--our enemies have made us one without our
consent, as repeatedly happens in history. Distress binds us together, and,
thus united, we suddenly discover our strength. Yes, we are strong enough to
form a State, and, indeed, a model State. We possess all human and material
resources necessary for the purpose.
This is therefore the appropriate place to give an account
of what has been somewhat roughly termed our "human material." But
it would not be appreciated till the broad lines of the plan, on which
everything depends, has first been marked out.
The whole plan is in its essence perfectly simple, as it
must necessarily be if it is to come within the comprehension of all.
Let the sovereignty be granted us over a portion of the
globe large enough to satisfy the rightful requirements of a nation; the rest
we shall manage for ourselves.
The creation of a new State is neither ridiculous nor
impossible. We have in our day witnessed the process in connection with
nations which were not largely members of the middle class, but poorer, less
educated, and consequently weaker than ourselves. The Governments of all
countries scourged by Anti-Semitism will be keenly interested in assisting us
to obtain the sovereignty we want.
The plan, simple in design, but complicated in execution,
will be carried out by two agencies: The Society of Jews and the Jewish
The Society of Jews will do the preparatory work in the
domains of science and politics, which the Jewish Company will afterwards
The Jewish Company will be the liquidating agent of the
business interests of departing Jews, and will organize commerce and trade in
the new country.
We must not imagine the departure of the Jews to be a
sudden one. It will be gradual, continuous, and will cover many decades. The
poorest will go first to cultivate the soil. In accordance with a preconceived
plan, they will construct roads, bridges, railways and telegraph
installations; regulate rivers; and build their own dwellings; their labor
will create trade, trade will create markets and markets will attract new
settlers, for every man will go voluntarily, at his own expense and his own
risk. The labor expended on the land will enhance its value, and the Jews will
soon perceive that a new and permanent sphere of operation is opening here for
that spirit of enterprise which has heretofore met only with hatred and
If we wish to found a State today, we shall not do it in
the way which would have been the only possible one a thousand years ago. It
is foolish to revert to old stages of civilization, as many Zionists would
like to do. Supposing, for example, we were obliged to clear a country of wild
beasts, we should not set about the task in the fashion of Europeans of the
fifth century. We should not take spear and lance and go out singly in pursuit
of bears; we would organize a large and active hunting party, drive the
animals together, and throw a melinite bomb into their midst.
If we wish to conduct building operations, we shall not
plant a mass of stakes and piles on the shore of a lake, but we shall build as
men build now. Indeed, we shall build in a bolder and more stately style than
was ever adopted before, for we now possess means which men never yet
The emigrants standing lowest in the economic scale will be
slowly followed by those of a higher grade. Those who at this moment are
living in despair will go first. They will be led by the mediocre intellects
which we produce so superabundantly and which are persecuted everywhere.
This pamphlet will open a general discussion on the Jewish
Question, but that does not mean that there will be any voting on it. Such a
result would ruin the cause from the outset, and dissidents must remember that
allegiance or opposition is entirely voluntary. He who will not come with us
should remain behind.
Let all who are willing to join us, fall in behind our
banner and fight for our cause with voice and pen and deed.
Those Jews who agree with our idea of a State will attach
themselves to the Society, which will thereby be authorized to confer and
treat with Governments in the name of our people. The Society will thus be
acknowledged in its relations with Governments as a State-creating power. This
acknowledgment will practically create the State.
Should the Powers declare themselves willing to admit our
sovereignty over a neutral piece of land, then the Society will enter into
negotiations for the possession of this land. Here two territories come under
consideration, Palestine and Argentine. In both countries important
experiments in colonization have been made, though on the mistaken principle
of a gradual infiltration of Jews. An infiltration is bound to end badly. It
continues till the inevitable moment when the native population feels itself
threatened, and forces the Government to stop a further influx of Jews.
Immigration is consequently futile unless we have the sovereign right to
continue such immigration.
The Society of Jews will treat with the present masters of
the land, putting itself under the protectorate of the European Powers, if
they prove friendly to the plan. We could offer the present possessors of the
land enormous advantages, assume part of the public debt, build new roads for
traffic, which our presence in the country would render necessary, and do many
other things. The creation of our State would be beneficial to adjacent
countries, because the cultivation of a strip of land increases the value of
its surrounding districts in innumerable ways.
PALESTINE OR ARGENTINE?
Shall we choose Palestine or Argentine? We shall take what
is given us, and what is selected by Jewish public opinion. The Society will
determine both these points.
Argentine is one of the most fertile countries in the
world, extends over a vast area, has a sparse population and a mild climate.
The Argentine Republic would derive considerable profit from the cession of a
portion of its territory to us. The present infiltration of Jews has certainly
produced some discontent, and it would be necessary to enlighten the Republic
on the intrinsic difference of our new movement.
Palestine is our ever-memorable historic home. The very
name of Palestine would attract our people with a force of marvelous potency.
If His Majesty the Sultan were to give us Palestine, we could in return
undertake to regulate the whole finances of Turkey. We should there form a
portion of a rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization as
opposed to barbarism. We should as a neutral State remain in contact with all
Europe, which would have to guarantee our existence. The sanctuaries of
Christendom would be safeguarded by assigning to them an extra-territorial
status such as is well-known to the law of nations. We should form a guard of
honor about these sanctuaries, answering for the fulfillment of this duty with
our existence. This guard of honor would be the great symbol of the solution
of the Jewish question after eighteen centuries of Jewish suffering.
DEMAND, MEDIUM, TRADE
I said in the last chapter, "The Jewish Company will
organize trade and commerce in the new country." I shall here insert a
few remarks on that point.
A scheme such as mine is gravely imperiled if it is opposed
by "practical" people. Now "practical" people are as a
rule nothing more than men sunk into the groove of daily routine, unable to
emerge from a narrow circle of antiquated ideas. At the same time, their
adverse opinion carries great weight, and can do considerable harm to a new
project, at any rate until this new thing is sufficiently strong to throw the
"practical" people and their mouldy notions to the winds.
In the earliest period of European railway construction
some "practical" people were of the opinion that it was foolish to
build certain lines "because there were not even sufficient passengers to
fill the mail-coaches." They did not realize the truth -- which now seems
obvious to us -- that travelers do not produce railways, but, conversely,
railways produce travelers, the latent demand, of course, is taken for
The impossibility of comprehending how trade and commerce
are to be created in a new country which has yet to be acquired and
cultivated, may be classed with those doubts of "practical" persons
concerning the need of railways. A "practical" person would express
himself somewhat in this fashion:
"Granted that the present situation of the Jews is in
many plates unendurable, and aggravated day by day; granted that there exists
a desire to emigrate; granted even that the Jews do emigrate to the new
country; how will they earn their living there, and what will they earn? What
are they to live on when there! The business of many people cannot be
artificially organized in a day.
To this I should reply: We have not the slightest intention
of organizing trade artificially, and we should certainly not attempt to do it
in a day. But, though the organization of it may be impossible, the promotion
of it is not. And how is commerce to be encouraged? Through the medium of a
demand. The demand recognized, the medium created, it will establish itself.
If there is a real earnest demand among Jews for an
improvement of their status; if the medium to be created -- the Jewish Company
-- is sufficiently powerful, then commerce will extend itself freely in the
3. The Jewish Company
4. Local Groups
5. Society of Jews and Jewish State
Source: Translated from the German by Sylvie D'Avigdor, This
edition published in 1946 by the American Zionist Emergency Council, Essential
Texts of Zionism