Today marks the 120th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress. The First Zionist Congress was the first congress of the Zionist Organization, which became known as the World Zionist Organization. The conference was held in Basel, Switzerland, and was chaired by non-other than Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism.
The Congress was attended by around 200 people from 17 countries. Of those in attendance, 69 were delegates from Zionist societies, and the remainder were invited guests.
The Congress has been most known for the publication of a document called the Basel Program, which laid out the goals of Zionism. The document consisted of the following statement.
“Zionism aims at establishing for the Jewish people a publicly and legally assured home in Palestine. For the attainment of this purpose, the Congress considers the following means serviceable:
- The promotion of the settlement of Jewish agriculturists, artisans, and tradesmen in Palestine.
- The federation of all Jews into local or general groups, according to the laws of the various countries.
- The strengthening of the Jewish feeling and consciousness.
- Preparatory steps for the attainment of those governmental grants which are necessary to the achievement of the Zionist purpose.”
Following the First Zionist Congress, the Zionist Congress met every year between 1897 and 1901, then every two years until 1939, apart from during World War 1. The Zionist Congress was an intrinsic part of Zionism and played a crucial role in the movement and eventual establishment of the State of Israel.
Theodor Herzl wrote in his diary a few days after the First Zionist Congress in 1897 that:
“Were I to sum up the Basel Congress in a word – which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly – it would be this: At Basel I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today l would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it.”
Indeed, 51 years on from the First Zionist Congress, the State of Israel was born.
Contributed by Daniel Kosky, CAMERA Intern.