“Were I to summarise the Congress in Basel with one word – which I will not do in public – I’d say: in Basel I have founded the Jewish State. Were I to say this aloud today, so I would be rewarded with universal laughter. In five years maybe, certainly in fifty, everybody will have realised. ”
Theodor Herzl, 3rd September 1897
The first Zionist Congress held at the Municipal Casino in Basel, Switzerland, on Friday, August 29 to Sunday, August 31, 1897, is a historic event. The 204 participants, including 162 delegates with voting rights (women present did not have that right) carried out the founding act of the movement that resulted, 50 years later, in the proclamation of the State of Israel.
This act, which was supposed to end the suffering of the European Jews, which both anti-Semites and Zionists agreed to characterize as a distinct people, opened a new chapter in history and marked the official start of the suffering of another people, that of Palestine, who have seen their natural rights denied for 66 years.
The proceedings of the conference, entitled "Official Protocol," were published in Vienna in 1898 and republished in Prague in 1911.
As incredible as it may seem, it took 116 years for this historic document to be accessible to a French-speaking audience. Up to today it was only available in German and in a Hebrew translation published in 1947.
What exactly did these men have in mind? The best way to find out is to read their discussion recorded in the authentic protocol, which reveals more about it than all the false protocols. Here, for example, is what one of the pioneers of the conference, the Austrian writer Nathan Birnbaum, who was the first to use the word "Zionism," stated:
"(...) We do not want to be missionaries bringing culture or civilization anywhere, neither to the East nor to the West. But we can only be doubly pleased that the choice of Palestine offers a new opportunity to make our contribution to humanity, which is once again an outstanding contribution. A Jewish people with their state established in Palestine will not only be able to bring together within its borders European socio-ethical considerations and political-aesthetic elements, but will play a role of international mediator between East and West that has been sought for so long. They will do this because as a people they are capable of it, the Jewish people, who combine their Eastern hereditary qualities with European upbringing; and if there is a geographic base appropriate to this plan, it is Palestine, close to Europe, situated on the Suez Canal and an indispensable stop on the railway to India.
If the Zionists proposed to establish a Jewish homeland on the moon, or even only at the North Pole, it would be impossible. Or, not to overdo it, if they chose China, or wanted for its capital Berlin, Paris, London or Rome, we would have an historic failure. That's because it is simply inconceivable that a young civilization which is still weak could chase out an old and still vigorous civilization from its most populous cities. However it is very possible that in a sparsely populated country, home to an ancient but declining culture, another one young and full of promise, and therefore stronger, could settle. " (First Zionist Congress , Official Protocol , p. 92)
FIRST ZIONIST CONGRESS
Basel, 29-31 August 1897
Translated from the German (Central Europe ) by Michèle Mialane and edited by Fausto Giudice
workshop19 publishers , Tunis, October 2013
212 p. , 15x23
€ 16 , 12 TND
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