This city, the birthplace of political Zionism, the town in which Herzl created the Zionist political movement and all the most important political and financial instruments of the World Zionist Organization, has long lost its significance as a centre of Zionist activities. Even before the War, Berlin had supplanted Vienna in the leadership of World Zionism, though Vienna was then the capital of a great European power, with a large and influential Jewish population with Zionist traditions dating back to Zionism’s first heroic epoch under Herzl’s leadership.
One of the chief reasons for this decay was the meagre participation of the Jewish population in Zionist activities. The same phenomenon may be observed in London. London, the seat of the Zionist Executive, the home of Dr. Weizmann, the birthplace of the Balfour Declaration and the seat of the Government holding the Mandate over Palestine, has yet not become one of the spiritual centres of Zionism And this is because London, like Vienna, had none of the enthusiasm which only a mass movement can provide.
In the meantime Vienna has become the capital of a very small state with only a very small fraction of its former Jewish population. Vienna Jewry has no Jewish ‘hinterland’ and the Vienna Jew has always been an easy prey to assimilation. Zionism has never been able to claim more than a small minority among them. Spiritually, too, Vienna has never played as important a part as Berlin, which in spite of the fact that Zionism never conquered the masses, took a leading part in Zionist affairs, thanks to the great abilities of its leaders. Vienna never made any important contributions to Zionism, and thus lost its place of importance in world Zionist affairs.
This year’s elections to the World Zionist Congress have shown that Zionism has not yet been able to compose its internal differences. The question as to whether the splitting up into factions and parties has helped or hindered Zionist progress, is an interesting and an important one. It seems certain that in countries with a small Jewish population this process has been no blessing though it may well be that in countries with a large Jewish population, such as Poland, the United States, or even Palestine, it may serve a useful purpose. Such countries may be able to afford several opposing Zionist parties, and with the variety of interests and opinions that is bound to be found among a Jewish population of several millions, this splitting up may be inevitable, perhaps even desirable.
JEWISH FORCE SQUANDERED
In a small country like Austria, however, this places an insuperable obstacle in the way of general Zionist progress. During the present election campaign for the Zionist Congress, the various groups within Zionism have been squandering all their energies on fighting each other, and Zionism as such has been completely neglected. With such bitterness has this fight been waged in Vienna that potential Zionists are kept away and even convinced Zionists are being driven out of the movement. In spite of the fact that only 2 or 3 percent of the total Jewish population are active Zionists, scarcely any attempts have been made to spread Zionism among the rest, and all energies have been concentrated on gaing adherents from among the ranks of the opposing groups.
Thanks to Hitlerism in Germany, and the shadow of Hitlerism in Austria, Austria is today a fruitful field for Zionist propaganda. Hitlerism on its own doorstep has brought the Vienna Jewish masses much closer to Eretz-Isroel, and Zionism could easily gain their sympathies and cooperation if it could only compose its own internal differences.
During the present campaign, in spite of the enormous efforts that were made, in spite of intensive propaganda in the press and by means of pamphlets, in spite of the fleet of cars that was available for voters to go to the polling station in, in spite even of Shekels given away, there were only from twelve to thirteen thousand Shekel holders, and of these only about 8,000 took the trouble to use their votes!