Abdul-Wahab Kayyali
Journal of Palestine Studies,

Zionism  as  a  modern  political  creed  arose  as a  reaction  to three  interacting  challenges  or  problems  facing Europe  in  the nineteenth  century,  the heyday  of  Western  imperialism.
napoleonEgyptThe first  of  these  was  the growth  and  expansion  of European  imperialism,  which  necessitated  the search  for new  sources  of raw materials  and  markets  for  the  finished  products,  in addition  to securing  the  lines of commercial  and  military  communication.  The  importance  of the Arab lands as  the gateway  to  Africa and the bridge  to Asia was made evident  by Napoleon's  campaign  (1797-1799).  Yet the  "dangers"  of  an  independent  state comprising  Egypt  and other parts of the  Arab  world set up by  Muhammad  Ali (Al-Kabir)  became  clear soon afterwards.  Thus  the need  for stifling  any nascent  independent  state, doubly  threatening  to imperialism  later on, in the wake  of  the  spread  of Arab nationalist  sentiment,  became  increasingly  persistent  as  the  "Ottoman  Empire,"  the  "sick  man  of  Europe,"  drifted  further  towards  disintegration.  

Secondly:  the  failure of  European  liberalism  and  the  ideas of  equality  and  democracy  to  incorporate  and  assimilate  the  Jew  were combined  with the  capitalist  crisis in Eastern  Europe  that followed  in  the  wake of the  adoption  of  industrialization  with the  consequent  loss of vocation  for  a  great  number  of  Jews  who could not  easily adjust  to the transformation  of the feudal economic  system.  It  is  important  to  note that  this  separation  of the  Jews  from  their  environments  encouraged  a  Jewish  "apartness"  which  was,  in  the  past,  a  contributory  factor  to the  phenomenon  of  anti-Jewishness.  

Thirdly:  The  spread  of  aggressive  and  chauvinist  nationalism  in  Europe  stressed  racial  qualities  and the  racial basis of the nation  and  the nation-  state  as  well as racial superiority  and  the need  for expansion,  Lebensraum,  which  was diverted  to  overseas  colonies  and possessions.  Superiority,  exploitation  and domination  were  upheld  as a  civilizational  mission  under the  notion of the "white  man's  burden.  "  These ideas and notions  played  a  crucial  role  in  the ideological  formulation  of Zionism  as well as a guiding  light for its  founders.  

These challenges  were  known  as  the "Eastern  Question"  or  the "Syrian  Question,"  and the  "Jewish  Question."  We  shall  see that it  was  the  first  question  which prompted  the  major imperialist  figures  to  propose  the idea of  creating  a  client  Jewish  settler  state  in  Palestine,  primarily  designed  to block  the fulfilment  of  unity  and  independence  in  that  important  area  of  the  world,  and to serve the interests  of the  imperialist  sponsors  and protectors  of  that  state. The  events  of the  latter  part  of  the  century  were conducive  to  the  creation  of what amounted  to  a  consensus  of  opinion  among  the  imperialist  and Western  politicians,  with  the cooperation  of  Western  Jewish  capital  and  anti-Semites  everywhere  in favour  of Zionism  and the establishment  of  a  Jewish  state  in  Palestine.  

Towards  the end  of  the  eighteenth  century  the  Western  powers'  interest  in  the Arab  area  intensified  as  the  aging  Ottoman  Empire  became  increasingly  dependent  on the  European  powers,  which obtained  privileges,  footholds  and  spheres  of  influence  within  the  Empire  itself.  These  powers  sought  to  establish  direct  links  with the  various  populations  and  religious  sects  in  the  area.  Thus, eventually  France  was  to become  the  protector  of  the Catholic  communities  in  Syria,  Lebanon  and  Palestine  while  the  Orthodox  Christians  came under Russian  protection.  

It  was  during  his  Palestinian  campaign  (1799)  that  Napoleon,  motivated  by  his war  needs and later  on  by  his  ambition  to attract the  loyalty  of the  Jews  as  agents throughout  the  world,  issued his call for the  rebuilding  of  the  Temple  in  Jerusalem  and  the "return"  of the  Jews  to Palestine  for  political  purposes.  The  campaign  itself aroused  British  interest  in  Palestine  as it  posed  a  threat to  the British  overland  route  to India.  When  Muhammad  Ali of  Egypt  embarked  on his ambitious  plan  to modernize  Egypt  and  build a  strong  independent  state  comprising  Egypt,  Greater  Syria  and the  Arab  Peninsula  during  the first decades  of the nineteenth  century,  the British  government  adopted  a  course  of direct  military  intervention  and was  instrumental  in  driving  the  armies of  Ibrahim  Pasha  (son  of Muhammad  Ali)  back to  Egypt...

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