Sunday, January 18, 2009

Reflections on the emergence of Zionism


Arthur Koestler in his book "The Thirteenth Tribe" writes about the history of the Jews and the emergence of the Zionist's in the ancient Khazar Empire around the Caucasus between the Caspian sea and the Baltic sea. They adopted the Jewish faith and were Caucasian but weren't associated with Zionism until the late 19th.century when it presented itself as a political movement concerned principally with the establishment of a state in Palestine to be controlled by and for Jews. It began in the late 19th Century and attained its stated objective with the creation in 1948 of the state of Israel by the United Nations.

The author was pretty much in the middle of all this, as he became an early Zionist and moved to what was then Palestine for several years, and seems to have a good handle on the history of Israel.


Koestler studied science and psychology at the University of Vienna, where he became President of a Zionist student fraternity. A month before he was due to finish his studies, he burnt his matriculation book and did not take his final examinations but made "aliyah" to Israel (then a British Mandate). From 1926 to 1929 he lived in the British Mandate of Palestine, firstly in a , kibbutz in the Jezreel Valley ("Heftzibah"), and later in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where he almost starved. He left Palestine for Paris as a correspondent to the Ullstein-Verlag group of German newspapers. A year later he became science editor for Ullstein based in Berlin; a highlight of that post was membership in a 1931 Zeppelin expedition to the North Pole.

He joined the Communist Party of Germany in 1931, but left it after the Moscow trials of 1938. During this period he traveled extensively in the Soviet Union and climbed Mount Ararat in Turkey. In Turkmenistan, he met the Black American writer Langston Hughes. He worked also for the Komintern propaganda services and went three times to Spain, as correspondent of the British paper News Chronicle. During the Spanish Civil War, he was captured after the takeover of Málaga in 1937 by Francoists and sentenced to death, but later exchanged so he could return to the United Kingdom. His Spanish experience and the Moscow trials turned him into an anti-Communist. The account of his Spanish experience was told in Spanish Testament.


No comments: