This article originally appeared in the March 12, 1924, issue.
Of all the concepts which are associated with the Jewish problem and the outstanding effort which is being made toward its solution, perhaps none has become involved in obscurer controversy than “political Zionism.” So keen and even acrimonious have the debates become that the doctrine which this phrase inadequately represents has been torn out of its setting of history and reality, like a sentence wrenched out of its context, and has become a sort of Ding an sich, a self-inclosed system of ideas, or, better still, an incantation, capable of effecting a wonderful transformation in the relationship of Palestine to the Jewish people.
Yet political Zionism can no more be dissociated from practical affairs than law from natural process. For us there is only Zionism–and “cultural Zionism,” “practical Zionism,” “political Zionism” are only convenient figures of speech, arbitrary approaches or methods of discussion. To talk of political Zionism as something which the Zionist can either accept or deny is to talk of granting permission to two and two to make four. Political Zionism is not something outside of the process of building up a homeland in Palestine which may be added to that process or withheld from it. It is inherent in every step. Every affirmative act in the creation of a Jewish center in Palestine is political.
Political Zionism, in brief, is the creation of circumstances favorable to Jewish settlement in Palestine. The circumstance most favorable to Jewish settlement in Palestine is the existence of a Jewish settlement in Palestine. The larger the Jewish settlement the greater the ease with which it can be increased, the less the external opposition to its increase; the smaller the Jewish settlement in Palestine the more difficult its increase, the more obstinate the opposition.
One does not create political Zionism by affirming it, any more than one destroys it by denying it. Men who have never heard the phrase, and others who have combated it, have been political Zionists. Those first pioneers of nearly half a century ago, who went out to Palestine and founded the first modern colonies, who laid the foundations of the still small but flourishing Jewish settlement, were actually the founders of political Zionism. They built up positions, they furnished proof of the practicality of the scheme, they gave the most convincing demonstration of the will behind the demand; their work, whatever they intended, reached beyond the immediate achievement and beyond the Jewish people. The world respects the settlements in Palestine more than all the protestations of the Jews.
Those who believe, or who affect to believe, that some sort of system can be devised whereby Palestine can be “given” to the Jewish people are talking of a Zionism which is not political but metaphysical. A country is not a thing done up in a parcel and delivered on demand. England can no more “give” Palestine to the Jews than it can give them history or a culture. All that England can do–and is making serious efforts to do–is to create conditions whereby the Jews cannot “take” Palestine but can grow into it again, by a natural and organic process.