Talking Movies

October 10, 2013

Did Theodor Herzl Propose Israel as a Kickstarter Project?

Simon Schama’s recent documentary The Story of the Jews piqued my interest in Theodor Herzl’s 1896 pamphlet The Jewish State, but, interesting as the text is, I didn’t expect it to feel quite so contemporary…

Theodor Herzl

Herzl, writing in the wake of the Dreyfus Affair, advocated systematic transference of Jewish people and their property to a newly constituted homeland in either the Argentine or Palestine. To carry out this massive exodus he proposed two massive organisations, the Society of Jews and the Company of Jews, be formed. The Society of Jews would be the diplomatic and spiritual face of the Zionist enterprise, charged with encouraging Jewish emigration, and convincing the international powers to facilitate the creation of the new nation, while the Company of Jews would be the practical holding company concerned with arranging transportation, construction in the new state, and, most importantly, the systematic realisation of Jewish assets in their adopted countries to enable wealth to transfer to the new homeland without massive economic disruption in their adopted countries or unnecessary impoverishment of the new homeland. And it’s in describing how the massive working capital for the Company of Jews might be raised that I did a double-take on recognising a very familiar contemporary concept….

“The Company’s capital might be raised, without the intermediary of a syndicate, by means of direct subscription on the part of the public. Not only poor Jews, but also Christians who wanted to get rid of them, would subscribe a small amount to this fund. A new and peculiar form of the plebiscite would thus be established, whereby each man who voted for this solution of the Jewish Question would express his opinion by subscribing a stipulated amount.This stipulation would produce security. The funds subscribed would only be paid in if their sum total reached the required amount, otherwise the initial payments would be returned. But if the whole of the required sum is raised by popular subscription, then each little amount would be secured by the great numbers of other small amounts.” (p.60)

So, um, did Theodor Herzl sort of propose the state of Israel as the first Kickstarter Project back in 1896??

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