Nationalism In The Middle East Essays

Nationalism In The Middle East Essays-43
The Haskalah, an 18th/19th century movement advocating enlightenment values and pressing for integration into European society, garnered assimilation; it advocated ‘coming out of the ghetto’[7] in a spiritual and physical sense, in order to assimilate.The failure of assimilation was highlighted by Jewish emancipation of the late 19 century.Pinkser writes in 1882 that anti-Semitism was a ‘psychosis and incurable’[17], the only remedy was to become an independent nation through self-liberation.

The Haskalah, an 18th/19th century movement advocating enlightenment values and pressing for integration into European society, garnered assimilation; it advocated ‘coming out of the ghetto’[7] in a spiritual and physical sense, in order to assimilate.The failure of assimilation was highlighted by Jewish emancipation of the late 19 century.

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Nordau stresses Zionism as a cure for the rootless, Western Jew[22] – where Palestine would anchor the nation and provide security.

The failure of assimilation and growth of anti-Semitism highlighted Jewish physical insecurity, Zionism provided a simple solution for this with Palestine.

This emancipation represented hope and a taste of freedom: the Western European Jewry believed it had a chance of changing things.

However, the anti-Semitism that followed aggressively shattered this dream, that mankind was progressing towards assimilation, cosmopolitanism and a one-world culture.

Zionism was able to grasp the dynamic of deep disappointment and shame, and redirect it to Jewish salvation.

The phenomenon of Arab nationalism anchored itself in, and galvanized Arab society, because it awoke the individual and collective Arab psyche.Zionism was a response to this oppression of assimilation.It sought to cultivate harmony and unity in the Jewish nation, as opposed to self-effacement.This essay shall argue that Zionism was, to a limited extent, a response to the failure of assimilation but especially due to the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment), whose contrast to assimilation, highlighted a moral and physical “national death.”[1] Albeit, Zionism was in essence a response to the precarious situation in Europe, which in turn was caused by a rise of anti-Semitism and hence the need for security and dignity through Jewish unity.Although Ahad Ha’am stresses that the ‘instinct for national survival’[2] and not anti-Semitism caused Jewish nationalism, Anita Shapira argues that it was a mixture of all these factors that caused Zionism to be born out of deep disappointment, shame and outrage.[3] Arab nationalism in turn, was a response to Western colonial encroachment and anti-Ottoman feeling, inspired by a return to the purity of Islam; Arab nationalism was an “immortal message and the way to salvation.”[4] Edward Said highlights that Zionism was Palestinian nationalism’s alter ego,[5] it helped shape the identity it took, but identities are fluid and dynamic and to suggest that Palestinian nationalism emerged as a response to Zionism, would be greatly myopic and underestimate its roots in pan-Arabism.Zionism was also a response to the need for unity; Hovevei Zion was understood as the only way to ensure Jewish collective existence, ‘as religion could no longer serve to unify our hearts’[23].At its core, Zionism sought to rebuild something that anti-Semitism and failure of assimilation had destroyed – the Jewish spirit.Al-Nahda (cultural awakening) was the basis of Arab nationalism’s intellectual modernisation, Sayyid Jamalaldin fused an adherence to Islam with an anti-colonial doctrine and in 1859, al – Bustani was calling for an Arab nation to counter Western domination.Behrendt argues Arab nationalism was merely an imitative adaption, a way of compensating for and overcoming inferiority complexes caused by colonial rule[27], however this is a view that fails to understand that the Muslim world was originally perceived a single political unit, until Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt.The failure of Jewish assimilation into their respective nation-states galvanized anti-Semitism and Ha’am argues it degenerated into ‘self-effacement’[6].This corruption of the Jewish spiritual centre threatened the nation, as it repressed national inclinations, and the development of the Jewish nation was dependent on self-love – Zionism was the remedy to achieve self-confidence and national vitality that assimilation had failed to provide.

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