3. SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT - NEWSPAPER
GoalDevelop the Zionist idea in juxtaposition to the Dreyfus Affair.
MaterialsPress articles from this bulletin.
One of the moderators plays Herzl.
Journalist accessories or radio/video set-up if preferred.
TimeframeThis activity can be spread over several meetings.
- As Editor-in-Chief of a major newspaper/radio station/TV channel, you have been following the Dreyfus Affair as an interesting spy story. Form one or more teams of correspondents for a feature on Theodore Herzl and bring out a 2-4 page colour special edition, devoted to him and the beginnings of the Jewish nationalist movement - i.e. Zionism - in Western Europe.
- Each of the teams (up to four) will have a different remit.
a] interview Herzl and report it (see outline below)
b] an article on Dreyfus' public disgrace
c] cartoons promoting Zionism on the basis of the Dreyfus Affair
d] layout and headings etc for the special issue.
- When advising or being interviewed, the leader should make it clear that Dreyfus was the prototype of the assimilation model and use examples from the press to support this attitude.
Herzl and Zionism
The Dreyfus Affair was to accelerate Herzl's process of search for a resolution of the Jewish problem. It has often been said that political Zionism could only have been born and nurtured in the soul of a Viennese Jew living in a multinational state with the birth of nationalisms, but it should be emphasized that Zionism took shape in Paris, birthplace of the great modern political ideologies.
There is more than a grain of truth in Epinal's conclusion that Herzl became a Zionist when he witnessed Captain Dreyfus' public disgrace. He was following the Trial, verdict, sentencing and the development of the Affair both from a professional and personal standpoint. Initially, Herzl accepted the trial verdict of guilty but doubts soon crept in as the tones of the antisemitic press grew louder relating Dreyfus' treachery to his Jewish origins. As he read Drumont's La Libre Parole (Free Speech) and the Assumptionists' La Croix (The Cross), he noted the unclarified points in the Inquiry, the contradictory conclusions of experts and graphologists, Dreyfus' denials which showed him in a sympathetic light "his calm and confidence" throughout the Trial in contradistinction to the hostile atmosphere around him. When the verdict was announced, Herzl expressed his doubts; Herzl obviously also had access to Austro-German sources of information: he emphasized that Dreyfus was Jewish and that this played an important part in the condemnation.
On the 27th December 1894, he even wrote that Dreyfus had told his guard before the trial, "I am being persecuted because I am Jewish..."
although this does not fit well with the Captain's character as we know it. Essentially, wanted to defend him out of common feeling.
Herzl was profoundly affected by the public ceremony at which Dreyfus was disgraced, particularly by the dignity which his confidence in his innocence accorded him in face of hostility and savagery. As he passed a group of officers yelling, "Judas! Traitor!", Dreyfus turned to say, "I forbid you to insult me!". Herzl pays tribute to the nobility of Dreyfus' behaviour in defending his own honour and the honour of all Jews. He is constantly aware of the crowd shouting, "Death to the Jews!" and conveys this effectively in his paper in 1899. He was also deeply shocked by the wave of antisemitism which shook Republican France in the wake of the Dreyfus Affair using the supposed treason as its pretext. For him, it was proof incarnate that assimilation was not a viable option: if a Jew like Dreyfus who was a French patriot, an office in Central Command, could be victimized and accused of treason because he was Jewish, it implied that Jews would always remain foreigners...
Herzl's absolute "conversion" to his new philosophy can be traced to the period between Pesach and Shavuot in 1895, after Dreyfus was deported. He opened his first Zionist Journal, "recalling the stages which led" him to "discover the 'Promised Land'". From then on, it was clear to him that he had found the solution to the Jewish problem and he made Dreyfus the symbol of the assimilated Jew, persecuted by antisemitism, justifying his Zionism as follows (1899):
"The Dreyfus Affair is more than a judicial error: it is a clear manifestation of the desire of most Frenchmen to condemn a Jew and - through him - all Jews. "Death to the Jews!" cried the crowd as the Captain's symbols of rank were ripped from his uniform. And where? In France. In modern, civilized, Republican France one hundred years after the Declaration of the Rights of Man for Jews. The Edict of the Great Revolution has been revoked. Until now, most of us believed at a resolution of the Jewish Question as the slowly ripened fruit of human progress. But when we see such an advanced people, so highly civilized in all other respects, embarking on such a road, what is left to hope from other peoples who have not yet reached the level of France a hundred years ago?"
Subsequently, Herzl was to write The Jewish State and call thefirst Zionist Congress in Basle, 1897. Note, however, that the first major Aliya began in 1881, well before Herzl.
Bibliography: Boyer, A., Theodore Herzl, Albin Michel Publishing, France.