THE ROAD TO HELL IS PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS – Zionism’s founding fathers explain their creed in a letter to TIMES of London

THE ROAD TO HELL IS PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS . . .


In the Times newspaper from Theodore Herzl’s right-hand aide and second President of the WZO, David Wolffsohn, who wrote in 1911:

“Sirs,- I shall be obliged if you will allow me to make a few observations upon the article of your Constantinople Correspondent on the ‘Young Turks and Zionism’ which appeared in your issue of April 14, and regret that my recent absence from Cologne has prevented me from writing to you before. I particularly regret this inevitable delay, as several statements in the article are quite incorrect. As they have not yet been challenged or rectified in your columns, I fear they may have found acceptance in certain quarters. Knowing, however, that you are far from desiring that any injustice should be done through any article in your paper to the cause that I represent, I feel that you will grant hospitality to a few notes of correction and explanation. While fully admitting the evident desire of your Correspondent to present an objective and impartial account of Zionism in the Ottoman Empire, I regret that his limited knowledge of our movement and the sources from which he appears to have derived it made it impossible for him to realize his desire. The cardinal defect of his article consists in the assumption that Zionism is a scheme for the foundation of a Jewish State in Palestine. This assumption is wrong. His comments upon our movement and his account of the views upon it in Turkish circles are mainly dependent upon this assumption. As his premise is incorrect, his conclusions are of interest only in so far as they represent the state of mind shared by others in Turkey who have likewise been misled as to our aims and intentions. The object of Zionism is clearly defined in its programme adopted at our first Congress at Basel in 1897, and hence known as the Basel Programme. This programme is ‘To create a publicly recognised and legally secured home for the Jewish people in Palestine.’ The aim thus formulated is essentially different from the aspiration to found a State and those who attribute to us such an aspiration misrepresent us in a very serious degree, as they are likely, however, unwittingly, to cause difficulties being put in our way. It is because this erroneous notion has secured a strong hold upon the minds of many people that disparaging remarks were made upon Zionism in the Turkish Chamber several weeks ago. This misinterpretation of our position is all the more strange and inexcusable as I expressly declared at the ninth Zionist Congress at Hamburg in December 1909, that our work is guided and governed by the deepest respect for the Constitution and by the fullest recognition of the sovereignty of the Porte. We are simply desirous of making Palestine once again the national home of the Jewish people; and, to achieve that end, we are working for the economic and intellectual regeneration of the Holy Land in full conformity with the Law. Our object is so peaceful and our aims are calculated so highly to benefit the interests of the Ottoman Empire that we are painfully surprised that our movement should arouse any distrust in authoritative circles in Turkey. This circumstance can be ascribed only to the prevalence of various fantastic legends that have been put into circulation by our opponents, who, I regret to say, include many Jews. The latest of these legends is that Zionist activity is being conducted in the specific interests of Germany. This story is utterly without foundation in substance or fact, as we have no relations of any kind that can be construed as specially favouring the economic interests of Germany. The data advanced in support of the story are also incorrect. The Jeune Turc cited by your Correspondent is a purely Turkish paper, which, it is quite true, has more than once advocated a Jewish immigration into the Ottoman Empire in the interests of the Empire itself, but there is not the least ground for deducing from this that we are even in the least responsible for the policy of the paper. It is therefore immaterial to us whether the proprietor, Herr Hochberg, is a German Jew, or, as I have just been informed on excellent authority, a Russian Jew. Dr V. Jacobson, who is one of the leading Zionists in Constantinople and manager of an English company – the Anglo-Levantine Banking Company – is also a Russian subject…I am sure that when those who are interested in Zionism will have purged their minds of the various fantastic fables that have been put into circulation to damage it, they will realize its peaceful intentions and beneficent aims. Our organisation has already given a powerful impetus to commercial and industrial life in Palestine during the few years it has been active in the country, mainly through our companies which carry on their operations there. These companies – the Anglo-Palestine Company (Limited), the Jewish National Fund (Limited) and the Palestine Development Fund (Limited) – have all been registered in London as English companies. The part they are playing in the economic amelioration of Palestine is but an earnest of the great work that Zionism is destined to do, which, with the good will of the Ottoman Government, it will accomplish. 


Yours obediently, D.Wolffsohn, President of the Zionist Organisation, Cologne, May 1st.” 

(The Times, Wednesday, May 10, 1911; pg. 8; Issue 39581; col B.)

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