The Jews, in spite of their condition as a colonized people, managed to maintain their identity and their culture. Many times, upon expulsion from one place or another, most of their property was left behind for the benefit of the nobility or the monarch. The wealth of many noble houses of Europe was built upon the periodic expropriation of wealth from their Jewish subjects, be it through expulsion, killing, forced conversion, or extorting money for “protection”.
In the Muslim world, the unique status of Jews as well as Christians was codified under Islamic law as “Dhimmi”, a term which means “protected” and involved the protection of the people in exchange for the payment of a special poll tax called “Dhizzia”. In other words, while the terms of the relationship was slightly different and in some ways Jews lived more secured lives in the Muslim world, they were colonized in both world. Their welfare and security depended on the wishes of the the ruler of the land and had no protection against it. If the ruler was benign, they were OK. It he was not, they suffered.
With the coming of the Emancipation many Jews had high expectations, they wanted the new order to lift the yoke off their backs and allow them to integrate into European Society. In the beginning, it worked; but as time went by the old prejudices and limitations resurfaced under different guises. The Jews began to become disappointed by the failure of Modernity to ensure Jews equal status as citizens. Only across the Ocean, in the American Colonies, Jews appeared to receive a better deal – but not because they were considered fully equals, but because the real divide in American society was not one of religion, but one of Race.
Zionism emerged as the Jewish response to the failure of Modertnity's promise of Emancipation. When the expectations of the Jews of Europe were disappointed, they turned to different alternatives; some looked to Socialism for redemption, some to conversion, some to insularity, and some to Zionism. It was during the period of the Emancipation that Jews were also offered an alternative: If they only became “less Jewish” in their outlook and religious practice they could be accepted (at least in principle). This was the ultimate offensive in the colonizing of the Jews...if they abandoned their National identity, forsake their culture, become a “German/French/etc of the Mosaic Faith”, then they could gain access to the mainstream society.
Zionism was the rebellion of the Jews against the Colonization of their culture and identity; a rebellion which in their minds meant that only through the establishment of a Jewish majority society could Jews preserve their identity while gaining access to the benefits of Modernity. They had to take charge of their own destiny; they had to gain their freedom and leave behind their subordination to other cultures.
Zionism became the first anti-colonial movement to be born in the European continent. The Jews managed to establish a Jewish society in the land of their ancestors and take control of their own lives; they shed in many cases the economic occupation where their oppressors had confined them in order to return to the working of the land and manual labor; that is how Israel was built. The Israeli pioneering ethos was one of self reliance because only through self-reliance could the dignity of being Jewish be recovered; only in dignity could Jews become – finally – truly free.
Anybody concerned with colonialism today in the Middle East should be concerned about ending the colonization of women and non Muslims in Arab countries; with ensuring the same freedoms Jews fought so hard to gain fpr themselves for the Arab people living under the yoke of their rulers or the intellectual despotism of extreme interpretations of Islam.
When Jihadists today demand the destruction of Israel, they are demanding the destruction of the Jewish success in shedding the yoke of servitude and building a free society where Jews could live as such without paying poll taxes and without fear that the rulers will expel them. Israel is the highest achievement of the National Liberation Movement of the Jewish People...other wise known as Zionism.
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