Tuesday, May 13, 2008


by Diana Muir

2nd part of 2

A Zionist Slogan?

In the minds of many of Zionism's detractors, the "land without a people" formulation has become a defining element of Zionism's original sin. But to what extent was that slogan actually employed by the early Zionists? The official Zionist mantra of the era stated that "The aim of Zionism is to create for the Jewish people a home in Palestine secured by public law." Zionist groups used a range of other slogans, including "Torah and Labor," "The Land of Israel for the People of Israel according to the Torah of Israel," and "Zionism, Socialism, and Diaspora Emancipation." These, along with "Jewish State," "Back to the soil," "Return to Zion," "Jewish homeland," "A Palestine open to all Jews," and, by far most frequently, "Jewish national home," were widely-propagated Zionist slogans. In a search of seven major American newspapers -- the Atlanta Constitution, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post[51] -- there were more than 3,000 mentions of the phrase "Jewish national home" through 1948. No other Zionist phrase or slogan comes close. In contrast, there are only four mentions of Zangwill's phrasing, "country without a people,"[52] all before 1906. There is no mention of its variants: "land without a people" or "country without a nation." ProQuest's Historical Newspapers database shows one additional use of the phrase before 1972: the 1947 "Text of the Statement before U.N. by Jamal el Husseini on the Arabs' Position on Palestine: Arab Statement Denounces U.N. Proposal for Partitioning Palestine,"[53] in which Husseini charges that "the Zionist organization propagated the slogan 'Give the country without a people to the people without a country.'"

Despite the claims of Husseini, Said, and Khalidi, it is not evident that this was ever the slogan of any Zionist organization or that it was employed by any of the movement's leading figures. A mere handful of the outpouring of pre-state Zionist articles and books use it.[54] For a phrase that is so widely ascribed to Zionist leaders, it is remarkably hard to find in the historical record.[55]

Attendees at the 1905 Zionist congress associated the phrase with Zangwill,[56] and it appears to have passed out of use along with the rejection of his proposal to establish the Jewish homeland in British East Africa. In the rare instances where the phrase is found in a post-1905 Jewish source, it is usually as a specific reference to Zangwill[57] although sometimes it appears when a Jewish author quotes a Christian writer.[58]

Mainstream writers refer to the phrase as something used briefly and years before. In 1914, Chaim Weizmann referred to the phrase as descriptive of attitudes common in the early days of the movement.[59] Israeli writer and historian Amos Elon dated Zionist use of the phrase to 1903 but said it had faded from the lexicon by 1917.[60] The single use of the phrase in The Maccabean, the journal of the Federation of American Zionists, occurred in 1901.[61] By 1922, Christian journalist William Denison McCrackan described the phrase as no longer in use.[62]

Unless or until evidence comes to light of its wide use by Zionist publications and organizations, the assertion that "a land without a people for a people without a land" was a "widely-propagated Zionist slogan"[63] should be retired.

A Land without People?

Rashid Khalidi uses the phrase to charge Zionist leaders with believing that the land was "empty."[64] Edward Said actually alters the wording of the phrase to allege that Zionists thought that Palestine was "a land without people."[65]

But travelers such as Keith, Blackstone, Stoddard, and Zangwill (who first visited Israel in 1897 and whose own father went to live there) were well aware of the small Arab population, which Blackstone, at least, addressed when he opined that it would not pose an obstacle to Jewish restoration.[66] If some Zionists believed that Israel was literally empty, it is unlikely that they did so after Ahad Ha'Am's 1891 essay, "Truth from Eretz Yisrael," sparked debate over conditions in Palestine.[67]

Did some Jews imagine the Land of Israel as an abandoned land? Perhaps. But it seems more likely that Jews were capable of knowing on one level that there were enough Arabs in Palestine to stage pogroms in Hebron and Safed in 1834 while still referring to the land as empty. The editors of The Maccabean, for example, estimated in 1901 that there were only 150,000 Arabs in Palestine, perhaps one-third of the true number, and suggested the following year that one-third of the population was already Jewish. They nevertheless characterized Palestine in 1905 as "a good land, but it is an empty land." [68]

Zionism, with its penniless, powerless enthusiasts and grand plans to restore a Jewish commonwealth, was a movement of wishful thinkers. Herzl's treatment of the topic in The Jewish State was typical.[69] He gives the resident population passing mention and only in the context of discussion of political obstacles that lay in the path to building a Jewish state.

Arabs, of course, were recognized by Zionists and others as a people deserving of national sovereignty. As Israel Zangwill put it in the wake of World War I, "The Arabs should recognize that the road of renewed national glory lies through Baghdad, Damascus, and Mecca, and all the vast territories freed for them from the Turks and be content ... The powers that freed them have surely the right to ask them not to grudge the petty strip [Israel] necessary for the renaissance of a still more downtrodden people."[70]


[1] Rashid Khalidi, Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), p. 101.
[2] See for example, Hanan Ashrawi, Sydney Morning Herald, Nov. 6, 2003.
[3] Saree Makdisi, "Said, Palestine, and the Humanism of Liberation," Critical Inquiry, 31 (2005): 443; idem, "An Iron Wall of Colonization," Counterpunch, Jan. 26, 2005.
[4] Muhammad Muslih, The Origins of Palestinian Nationalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988).
[5] Edward Said, The Question of Palestine (New York: Times Books, 1979), p. 9.
[6] Alexander Keith, The Land of Israel According to the Covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob (Edinburgh: William Whyte and Co., 1843), p. 43. An 1844 review of Keith's book in The United Secession Magazine (Edinburgh), vol. 1, p. 189, highlights the phrase with its most common wording: "a land without a people, and a people without a land."
[7] Whitefish, Mont.: Kessinger Publishing, 2005 (originally published in 1826).
[8] Keith, The Land of Israel According to the Covenant with Abraham, p. 43.
[9] Cited in Adam M. Garfinkle, "On the Origin, Meaning, Use, and Abuse of a Phrase," Middle Eastern Studies, Oct. 1991, p. 543.
[10] Shaftsbury as cited in Albert Hyamson, "British Projects for the Restoration of Jews to Palestine," American Jewish Historical Society Publications, 1918, no. 26, p. 140.
[11] Edwin Hodder, The Life and Work of the Seventh Earl of Shaftsbury (London: Cassell and Co., 1887), p. 487.
[12] Anonymous review of Van de Velde, C.W.M., Narrative of a Journey through Syrian and Palestine in 1851 and 1852 (Edinburgh: Wm. Blackwood and Sons, 1854), in United Presbyterian Magazine, Wm. Oliphant and Sons, Edinburgh, 1854, vol. 7, p. 403.
[13] Horatius Bonar, The Land of Promise: Notes of a Spring Journey from Beersheba to Sidon (New York: R. Carter and Brothers, 1858), excerpted in The Theological and Literary Journal (New York), July 1858-Apr. 1859, p. 149.
[14] William Blackstone, Palestine for the Jews (Oak Park, Ill.: self-pub., 1891), reprinted in Christian Protagonists for Jewish Restoration (New York: Arno, 1977), p. 17.
[15] Sermon by C. H. Banning, cited in George Seaton Bowes, Information and Illustration, Helps Gathered from Facts, Figures, Anecdotes, Books, etc., for Sermons, Lectures, and Addresses (London: James Nisbett and Co., 1884), p. 128.
[16] John L. Stoddard, Lectures: Illustrated and Embellished with Views of the World's Famous Places and People, Being the Identical Discourses Delivered during the Past Eighteen Years under the Title of the Stoddard Lectures, vol. 2. (Boston: Balch Brothers Co., 1897), p. 113.
[17] See, for example, William Henry Withrow, Religious Progress in the Century (London: Linscott Publishing Company, 1900), p. 184; Gospel in All Lands (New York: Methodist Episcopal Church Missionary Society, Jan. 1902), pp. 199-200.
[18] Harlan Page Beach, A Geography and Atlas of Protestant Missions: Their Environment, Forces, Distribution, Methods, Problems, Results, and Prospects at the Opening of the Twentieth Century (New York: Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, 1901), p. 521.
[19] Eitan Bar-Yosef, The Holy Land in English Culture, 1799-1917: Palestine and the Question of Orientalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 236.
[20] Augustus Hopkins Strong, Miscellanies (Philadelphia: Griffith and Rowland Press, 1912), p. 98.
[21] Garfinkle, "On the Origin, Meaning, Use, and Abuse of a Phrase," p. 539; Israel Zangwill, "The Return to Palestine," New Liberal Review, Dec. 1901, p. 615.
[22] Yaakov Ariel, On Behalf of Israel: American Fundamentalist Attitudes toward Jews, Judaism, and Zionism, 1865-1945 (New York: Carlson Publishing, 1991), pp. 70-2.
[23] Khalidi, Palestinian Identity, p. 163.
[24] Muslih, The Origins of Palestinian Nationalism, pp. 131-54.
[25] Ameen Rihani, "The Holy Land: Whose to Have and to Hold?" The Bookman, Jan. 1918, p. 10.
[26] Norman Dwight Harris, Europe and the East (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1926), p. 93.
[27] William Denison McCrackan, The New Palestine: An Authoritative Account of Palestine since the Great War (Boston: Page Company, 1922), p. 250.
[28] Martin Buber, A Land of Two Peoples: Martin Buber on Jews and Arabs, Paul Mendes-Flohr, ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), p. 14.
[29] Sami Hadawi, Bitter Harvest, Palestine between 1914 and 1967 (New York: New World Press, 1967), p. 10; Izzat Tannous, The "Activities" of the Hagana, Irgun, and Stern Gang: As Recorded in British Command Paper No. 6873 (New York: Palestine Liberation Organization, 1968), p. 3.
[30] Walter Laquer and Barry Rubin, eds., The Israel-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict (New York: Penguin, 2001), pp. 174-5.
[31] "Palestinian National Council Declaration of Independence," Algiers, Nov. 14, 1988.
[32] The Sydney Morning Herald, Nov. 6, 2003.
[33] Matt Horton, "The Atlas of Palestine 1948," The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Aug. 2005, p. 58.
[34] Said, The Question of Palestine, p. 9.
[35] For example, Saree Makdisi, "Israel's Fantasy Stands in Way of Peace," The Arab American News (Dearborn), Feb. 5-Feb. 11, 2005; Nur Masalha, Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of "Transfer" in Zionist Political Thought (Washington, D.C.: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992), p. 6.
[36] Khalidi, Palestinian Identity, p. 101.
[37] Khalidi relies on Anita Shapira, Land and Power: The Zionist Recourse to Force, 1881-1948 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), p. 41.
[38] Theodore Herzl, The Jewish State, Sylvie d'Avigdor, trans. (London: Nutt, 1896); idem, The Jewish State, Sylvie d'Avigdor, trans. (New York: Dover, 1988), p. 95.
[39] Garfinkle, "On the Origin, Meaning, Use and Abuse of a Phrase," p. 539.
[40] Rashid Khalidi, "Observations on the Right of Return," Journal of Palestine Studies, Winter 1992, p. 30.
[41] Rashid Khalidi, jacket blurb for Baruch Kimmerling and Joel S. Migdal, The Palestinian People: A History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003).
[42] Rashid Khalidi, "To End the Bloodshed," Christian Century, Nov. 22-29, 2000, p. 1206.
[43] Khalidi, Palestinian Identity, p. 101.
[44] Ronald Bleier, review of "Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict," Middle East Policy, Oct. 1999, p. 195.
[45] Norman Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (London: Verso Books, 1995), p. 95.
[46] Lawrence Davidson, "Christian Zionism as a Representation of American Manifest Destiny," Critique: Critical Middle East Studies, Summer 2005, p. 161.
[47] Jacqueline Rose, The Question of Zion (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), p. 44.
[48] Tom Segev, One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs under the British Mandate (New York: Owl Books, 2001), p. 493; Joel Beinin, "Political Economy and Public Culture in a State of Constant Conflict: Fifty Years of Jewish Statehood," Jewish Social Studies, July 31, 1998, p. 96.
[49] Benny Morris, Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist Arab Conflict, 1881-2001 (New York: Vintage, 2001), p. 42.
[50] Hillel Halkin, "The First Hebrew City," Commentary, Feb. 2007, p. 57.
[51] ProQuest Historical Newspapers database, accessed Nov. 27, 2007.
[52] The New York Times, Nov. 23, 1901, May 20, 1903; The Chicago Daily Tribune, Dec. 22, 1901; The Washington Post, Aug. 27, 1905.
[53] The New York Times, Sept. 30, 1947.
[54] See Israel Herbert Levinthal, Judaism, An Analysis and An Interpretation (New York and London: Funk and Wagnalls, 1935), p. 254; Morris Silverman, ed., Sabbath and Festival Prayerbook with a New Translation, Supplementary Readings, and Notes (New York: Rabbinical Assembly of America and the United Synagogue of America, 1946), p. 324; Max Raisin, A History of the Jews in Modern Times (New York: Hebrew Publishing Company, 1919), p. 356; The Zionist Review, Apr. 1918, p. 231; Leonard Mars, "The Ministry of the Reverend Simon Fyne in Swansea: 1899-1906," Jewish Social Studies, Winter/Spring 1988, p. 92.
[55] Alan Dowty, The Jewish State, A Century Later (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), p. 267.
[56] The Washington Post, Aug. 27, 1905.
[57] See "The Restoration of Judea," New York Globe editorial, May 1, 1917, reprinted in Zionism Conquers Public Opinion (New York: Provisional Executive Committee for General Zionist Affairs, 1917), p. 16; Richard James Horation Gottheil, Zionism (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1914), p. 139.
[58] Walter M. Chandler statement, The American War Congress and Zionism: Statements by Members of the American War Congress on the Jewish National Movement (New York: Zionist Organization of America, 1919), p 154.
[59] Paul Goodman, Chaim Weizmann: A Tribute on His Seventieth Birthday (London: V. Gollancz, 1945), p. 153.
[60] Amos Elon, The Israelis: Founders and Sons (New York: Holt, Reinhart, Winston, 1971), p. 149.
[61] Raphael Medoff, American Zionist Leaders and the Palestinian Arabs, 1898-1948 (Ph.D. diss., Yeshiva University, 1991), p. 17.
[62] McCrackan, The New Palestine, p. 250.
[63] Khalidi, Palestinian Identity, p. 101.
[64] Ibid.
[65] Said, The Question of Palestine, p. 9.
[66] Ariel, On Behalf of Israel, p. 74.
[67] Alan Dowty, "Much Ado about Little: Ahad Ha'am's 'Truth from Eretz Yisrael,' Zionism, and the Arabs," Israel Studies, Fall 2000, pp. 154-81.
[68] Medoff, American Zionist Leaders and the Palestinian Arabs, p. 19.
[69] Shapira, Land and Power, p. 51.
[70] Israel Zangwill, The Voice of Jerusalem (New York, Macmillan and Company, 1921) p. 110.

Diana Muir is the author of Reflections in Bullough's Pond: Economy and Ecosystem in New England (University Press of New England, 2000).

This article was published in Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2008.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is a pitched battle over an article entitled "A land without a people for a people without a land" going on today at Wikipedia , fueled by an editor who cannot bear the thought tha tEdwars Said was - gasp - wrong.

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