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Between anti-Semitism and political pragmatism: Polish perceptions of Jewish national endeavours in Palestine between the two world wars

Between anti-Semitism and political pragmatism: Polish perceptions of Jewish national endeavours in Palestine between the two world wars
Between anti-Semitism and political pragmatism: Polish perceptions of Jewish national endeavours in Palestine between the two world wars
Since Zionism was endemic within the Polish-Jewish politics of the interbellum, Warsaw’s elites, regardless of their political persuasion, were compelled to take a specific stand on the Zionist ideology and Jewish national aims in Palestine. Being chiefly concerned with understanding the reasons behind Polish official engagement with the Zionist cause, this dissertation charts the ideological, socio-political and economic developments of the mutual relations between Poland and the Zionist movement. By analysing crucial discussions that swept through the Polish political scene, this project highlights the diversity of ideological receptions and attitudes within Poland’s elites toward Zionism and the Palestine question, arguing that the pro-Zionist approach was not only propelled by anti-Semitism but was also the result of precisely calculated political, economic and diplomatic motives.

The question of Polish-Zionist interdependence is a fascinating and still little-known episode of history. In the existing historiography, Poland’s engagement with Zionism remains largely peripheral or is regarded as the most effective means of convincing Jews to emigrate from Poland. While not denying the importance of political anti-Semitism in the late 1930s, this project departs from the distorting lens of the tragic events of the Second World War and Nazi genocide. Drawing on documentation from Polish, Israeli and British archives and even more extensively on press coverage, this dissertation determines the concerns and objectives of Poland’s political elites vis-à-vis Zionism, their perceptions of Jewish endeavours in the Middle East and the political ramifications for both sides. In doing so, it contextualizes the Polish government as an important voice in the international debate on Jewish emigration and the Palestine project.

As this dissertation maintains, attitudes and official perceptions of Zionism evolved significantly during the interwar period and were inextricably intertwined with a complex set of internal and external factors. The implications of Polish interwar politics had a profound effect on the official perceptions of Zionism. The most influential events of this period were Piłsudski’s seizure of power in May 1926, the rise of a semi-authoritarian regime, the growth of ethno-nationalism within the Polish society and the process of erosion of the Sanacja camp’s political significance in the aftermath of the Marshal’s death. In addition, subsequent developments within international politics shaped the extent of bilateral Polish-Zionist relations. Thus, this project is embedded within the wider historical, diplomatic and geopolitical context of the rapidly changing political landscape of Poland, Europe and the Middle East.
University of Southampton
Dziekan, Katarzyna
108c03d8-0131-4aa8-b913-3d8b3af13a4b
Dziekan, Katarzyna
108c03d8-0131-4aa8-b913-3d8b3af13a4b
Gilbert, Shirli
cfcf5762-80b5-4417-a9cd-5eb3860b9bdc
Schloer, Joachim
bb73c4ae-2ef4-44ba-b889-b319afb40b03

Dziekan, Katarzyna (2019) Between anti-Semitism and political pragmatism: Polish perceptions of Jewish national endeavours in Palestine between the two world wars. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 264pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

Since Zionism was endemic within the Polish-Jewish politics of the interbellum, Warsaw’s elites, regardless of their political persuasion, were compelled to take a specific stand on the Zionist ideology and Jewish national aims in Palestine. Being chiefly concerned with understanding the reasons behind Polish official engagement with the Zionist cause, this dissertation charts the ideological, socio-political and economic developments of the mutual relations between Poland and the Zionist movement. By analysing crucial discussions that swept through the Polish political scene, this project highlights the diversity of ideological receptions and attitudes within Poland’s elites toward Zionism and the Palestine question, arguing that the pro-Zionist approach was not only propelled by anti-Semitism but was also the result of precisely calculated political, economic and diplomatic motives.

The question of Polish-Zionist interdependence is a fascinating and still little-known episode of history. In the existing historiography, Poland’s engagement with Zionism remains largely peripheral or is regarded as the most effective means of convincing Jews to emigrate from Poland. While not denying the importance of political anti-Semitism in the late 1930s, this project departs from the distorting lens of the tragic events of the Second World War and Nazi genocide. Drawing on documentation from Polish, Israeli and British archives and even more extensively on press coverage, this dissertation determines the concerns and objectives of Poland’s political elites vis-à-vis Zionism, their perceptions of Jewish endeavours in the Middle East and the political ramifications for both sides. In doing so, it contextualizes the Polish government as an important voice in the international debate on Jewish emigration and the Palestine project.

As this dissertation maintains, attitudes and official perceptions of Zionism evolved significantly during the interwar period and were inextricably intertwined with a complex set of internal and external factors. The implications of Polish interwar politics had a profound effect on the official perceptions of Zionism. The most influential events of this period were Piłsudski’s seizure of power in May 1926, the rise of a semi-authoritarian regime, the growth of ethno-nationalism within the Polish society and the process of erosion of the Sanacja camp’s political significance in the aftermath of the Marshal’s death. In addition, subsequent developments within international politics shaped the extent of bilateral Polish-Zionist relations. Thus, this project is embedded within the wider historical, diplomatic and geopolitical context of the rapidly changing political landscape of Poland, Europe and the Middle East.

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Published date: October 2019

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Local EPrints ID: 435784
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/435784
PURE UUID: d1fd11f9-dd37-404d-ac0b-4591427ebc51

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Date deposited: 20 Nov 2019 17:30
Last modified: 20 Nov 2019 17:30

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Contributors

Author: Katarzyna Dziekan
Thesis advisor: Shirli Gilbert
Thesis advisor: Joachim Schloer

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