The Zionism of Nordau

"Der Zionismus bei Nordau," Der Jude, Vol. 7, No. 10-11 (October-November 1923).  Reprinted in Gesammelte Schriften: Band 2.  Reprinted in Leo Strauss: The Early Writings.


It is the view of political Zionism that the plight of the Jews can only be alleviated by the establishment of a Jewish state, by the consolidation of the power of Jewish individuals into the power of the Jewish people.  In pursuit of this end, Herzl played off the power of the moneyed Jews (not at all a Jewish power as such) against the political powers, and, on the other hand, he played off the political legitimization of his project by the Great Powers, who in matters of political significance were the only decisive element, against the Jews.  Neither of these factors was really under his control.  But as he played them off against one another, the politically amorphous power of Jewish individuals solidified into a political will, into the political significance of the Jewish people.

While thoroughly approving of this goal, Nordau rejects Herzl’s means as “underhanded.”  He wants the power, but he rejects intrigue as a means of obtaining power.  He wants the power, but he calls for the admission that, at this time, we have no control over any power.  Thus he brings about the transition from political to spiritual Zionism, which makes a principle of the Jewish people’s powerlessness–indeed, of its aversion to power.

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