Basle Program

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BASLE PROGRAM

BASLE PROGRAM , original official program of the Zionist Organization, named after the city where the First Zionist Congress (see *Zionism) was held (August 23–31, 1897), and where the program was formulated and adopted. Its first sentence, stating the objective of the Zionist movement, was followed by a four-point program: "Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law. The Congress contemplates the following means to the attainment of this end: (1) The promotion by appropriate means of the settlement in Palestine of Jewish farmers, artisans, and manufacturers; (2) The organization and uniting of the whole of Jewry by means of appropriate institutions, both local and international, in accordance with the laws of each country; (3) The strengthening and fostering of Jewish national sentiment and national consciousness; (4) Preparatory steps toward obtaining the consent of governments, where necessary, in order to reach the goal of Zionism." While the term "Basle Program" includes both the statement of aim and the enumeration of means, the phrase is frequently used to refer solely to the first fundamental sentence.

The text of the Basle Program was prepared by a special commission set up by the Preliminary Conference that met in Basle two days before the opening of the Congress. It consisted of Nathan *Birnbaum,Max *Bodenheimer, Siegmund Mintz, Siegmund Rosenberg, Saul Rafael *Landau, Hermann *Schapira and Max *Nordau – all except the last two being lawyers. The draft constituted a compromise between opposing viewpoints, and a synthesis of various elements. One of these was Herzl's London Program, proposed during his visit to London in July 1897, according to which the aim of Zionism was "the acquisition of a territory, in accordance with the Law of Nations, for those Jews who are not able or willing to assimilate themselves." Also of importance in the genesis of the Basle Program were Schapira's ideas on the colonization of Palestine and, in particular, the theses of the Cologne Nation-aljuedische Vereinigung, headed by Bodenheimer, which postulated a Jewish commonwealth guaranteed by international law, the furtherance of the colonization of Palestine, dissemination of Jewish knowledge, and improvement in the social and cultural position of the Jews.

Not only Herzl in his Judenstaat (1896) but others, such as Bodenheimer, had expressly advocated a Jewish state, but the commission regarded it as prudent to refrain from using the word "state" in the official Zionist program. They felt that it was liable to antagonize Turkey, from which Herzl hoped to obtain the charter, and might also frighten certain Jewish circles. They therefore employed the term "Heimstaette" (home, or more exactly, homestead), suggested by Nordau, who submitted the draft proposal of the program to the Congress. This draft spoke of a "home secured by law" (rechtlich gesicherte Heimstaette).

Representatives of the younger generation, such as Fabius Schach and Leo *Motzkin – who spoke on this subject in the plenary session of the Congress – took exception to the term and proposed replacing it by "secured by International Law" ("voelkerrechtlich gesicherte Heimstaette"), wishing to emphasize the political character of the World Zionist Organization and to distinguish it clearly from the Ḥibbat Zion, whose cautious approach and exclusively philanthropic methods they strongly resented. It was Herzl himself who provided a compromise formula, which he had already used in his speeches – "oeffentlichrechtlich gesicherte Heimstaette" ("home secured by public law") and this formula met with universal approval. With this amendment the commission's draft proposal was unanimously passed by the Congress and became the official program of the World Zionist Organization for more than half a century. Parts of the first sentence of the Basle Program were incorporated into the *Balfour Declaration (1917) and the League of Nations Mandate over Palestine (1922).

After the declaration of Israel's independence (1948), it was felt that the Zionist program should be adapted to the new situation created by the establishment of the State of Israel, which had fulfilled the main postulate of Zionism. The most important among the proposals for a new Zionist program were those drafted by a committee established by the Zionist Organization of America and headed by the jurist Simon Rifkind, and another put forward by the American Section of the Jewish Agency Executive (both in 1949). These proposals assumed that the establishment of the state was a step toward, rather than a full realization of, the Zionist goal.

The question of the Zionist program figured high on the agenda of the 23rd Zionist Congress (Jerusalem, 1951), the first to meet after the proclamation of the state. The Congress committee charged with reformulating the Zionist program was headed by Ezra Shapiro (U.S.). Rather than abolishing the Basle Program and replacing it by a new one, the committee proposed completing it by a declaration that was officially styled "the task of Zionism." Generally known as the Jerusalem Program, this document reads as follows: "The task of Zionism is the consolidation of the State of Israel, the ingathering of the exiles in Ereẓ Israel and the fostering of the unity of the Jewish people." The Basle Program was retained and its first sentence – as well as the whole Jerusalem Program – was incorporated into the new constitution of the World Zionist Organization of 1960. There were several reasons for the affirmation of the Basle Program. First, a majority could not be found at the Congress for an entirely new reformulation of the goal and aim of Zionism. There were differences of opinion between the delegates from the United States and other English-speaking countries on the one hand and Israel and some Diaspora countries on the other, concerning the "Redemption of Israel through the Ingathering of Exiles" and other propositions. Further, it was felt that, at a time when little more than 10% of the Jewish people were living in the State of Israel, the "home" mentioned in the Basle Program could not be regarded as fully established. The desire to observe a time-honored tradition and to emphasize the continuity of the Zionist movement also played a part in the decision to retain the original platform of the Zionist Organization.

After the Six-Day War in 1967, when the Jewish people all over the world had shown its solidarity with embattled Israel, at least two points of the Jerusalem Program – those regarding the consolidation of the state and the unity of the Jewish people –had become common ground for the overwhelming majority of all Jews. It was felt, therefore, by many Zionists that the Jerusalem Program had lost much of its distinctive Zionist character, precisely because it was so widely accepted. The demand was increasingly voiced to keep the Basle Program unchanged but to revise the Jerusalem Program by making it more outspokenly Zionist. This revision, prepared by the Zionist Executive, was accomplished at the 27th Zionist Congress (Jerusalem, 1968). The Revised Jerusalem Program read as follows: "The aims of Zionism are: the unity of the Jewish people and the centrality of Israel in Jewish life; the ingathering of the Jewish people in its historic homeland Ereẓ Israel through aliyah from all countries; the strengthening of the State of Israel which is based on the prophetic vision of justice and peace; the preservation of the identity of the Jewish people through the fostering of Jewish and Hebrew education and of Jewish spiritual and cultural values; the protection of Jewish rights everywhere." This Revised Jerusalem Program was not merely an amplification and elaboration of the 1951 version; it introduced new points, some of which had been included in minority proposals at the 23rd Congress but had not been passed by the Plenary Session. These are the postulates of immigration from all lands; of Jewish and Hebrew education, as well as emphasis on the centrality of Israel in the life of the Jewish people and, consequently, of every Zionist.

bibliography:

H.H. Bodenheimer, Toledot Tokhnit Basel (1947); A. Bein, Theodor Herzl (19622), index; B. Halpern, Idea of the Jewish State (19692), index; L. Jaffe (ed.), Sefer ha-Kongress (19502).

[Aharon Zwergbaum]