They Used Fascists and Used Nazis to Build Their Criminal State On the Sacred Land of Palestine
by: Dr Hichem Karoui (Special to GEW).
Historical context provides a foundation for understanding complex relationships, a point emphasised in E.H. Carr’s “What is History?” (Carr, 1961). To understand the relationship between Mussolini’s Italy and Revisionist Zionism, one must first investigate the historical events and developments that moulded the setting for their interaction. Understanding geopolitical alliances often necessitates a historical inquiry, as seen in Benedict Anderson’s “Imagined Communities” (Anderson, 1983).
The aftermath of World War I is a crucial component of the historical context. The post-WWI era reshaped modern geopolitics, as analysed in depth by Margaret MacMillan in “Paris 1919” (MacMillan, 2003). The war dramatically influenced Europe, resulting in the dissolution of significant empires such as the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Russian Empire, as well as the loss of millions of lives. These tectonic shifts resulted in the formation of new states and changed the continent’s political structure.
The war has left a sad legacy in Italy. The effects of WWI on Italy’s national psyche have been well-documented, notably in Richard Bosworth’s “Mussolini” (Bosworth, 2002). Despite being on the winning side, the country was dissatisfied with the peace arrangement. Italy went into the war expecting to acquire large territory, notably in the Adriatic region. The Treaty of Versailles, however, fell short of these expectations, leaving many Italians feeling betrayed by their allies. This sense of betrayal, along with economic struggles and emotions of national shame, provided the framework for the rise of Benito Mussolini and his Fascist Party.
Mussolini, a former socialist, aimed to restore Italy’s previous greatness and expand its influence. When he came to power in the early 1920s, his vision of Italian nationalism appealed to a populace disillusioned with the postwar order. Mussolini used this emotion to his advantage, pledging to stimulate the economy, restore national pride, and establish Italy as a significant global power.
Concurrently, in the aftermath of World War I, the Jewish people faced several obstacles. The Jewish experience post-WWI is elaborated in “The Seventh Million” (Segev, 2000). Anti-Semitism persisted throughout Europe, and the devastation of the war heightened the need for a safe refuge for Jews. In this context, the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which expressed British support for forming a Jewish homeland in Palestine, offered hope to the Zionist movement. The proclamation sparked excitement among Zionist organisations, resulting in a surge in Jewish immigration to the region.
However, the British Mandate for Palestine, established in 1920, complicated matters. The British attempted to balance the interests of the region’s many communities, including Arabs and Jews. This delicate situation caused difficulties for the Zionist movement, which was divided into several factions with opposing views on the future of a Jewish homeland.
During Mussolini’s first years in power, the Fascist administration aspired to expand its influence throughout the Mediterranean and fortify its allies. Mussolini’s foreign policy ambitions are detailed in “Mussolini Unleashed, 1939-1941” (Knox, 1982). A critical component of their foreign policy was their desire to build alliances with various Zionist factions, especially Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s Revisionist Zionists. The Revisionists called for a more proactive and military approach to building a Jewish state, drawing on Mussolini’s Italy’s nationalist zeal.
Mussolini’s Italy cultivated more significant ties with Zionists during the 1920s and 1930s, partially for strategic reasons. Italy’s Zionist alliances are scrutinised in Francis R. Nicosia’s “Zionism and Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany” (Nicosia, 2008). To offset British and French influence in the region, the Fascist dictatorship saw possibilities in forming alliances with Jewish groups and individuals. Using the dreams of a Jewish state, Italy aimed to secure a foothold in the Middle East and expand its sphere of influence.
The cooperation between Mussolini’s Italy and the Revisionist Zionists was fraught with contradictions and complexities. While some Zionists regarded the collaboration with Italy as a way to further their goals, others were cautious about joining a state whose ideology contradicted democratic and human rights norms.
Furthermore, during this period, Arab nationalism rose in Palestine, adding another layer of complication to the situation. The rise of Arab nationalism is discussed in Rashid Khalidi’s “Palestinian Identity” (Khalidi, 1998). The aspirations of the Jewish and Arab communities in Palestine resulted in a confrontation of nationalistic ideas, aggravated by altering international political realities.
It is necessary to investigate the socioeconomic and ideological conditions that shaped Mussolini’s Italy and Revisionist Zionism to comprehend the historical backdrop completely. In Italy, the Fascist government arose from a deep societal discontent stemming from Italy’s unfulfilled territorial hopes following World War I. Mussolini took advantage of this disappointment by propagating an authoritarian and nationalist philosophy that was popular with the public. Italian Fascism emphasised state glorification and the goal of Roman greatness, employing extensive propaganda and dominating different elements of society to build a totalitarian state.
Revisionist Zionism, led by Ze’ev Jabotinsky, arose in response to the post-World War I situation confronting Jews. Dissatisfied with mainstream Zionist groups’ apparent passivity, Revisionism attempted to construct a Jewish homeland through assertive measures, such as pushing for military self-defence and demanding a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan River. Jabotinsky emphasised Jewish self-sufficiency and the military defence of Jewish rights in Palestine.
Mussolini’s Italy and Revisionist Zionism formed a complex collaboration with mutual ambitions and competing agendas. Mussolini saw a chance to expand Mediterranean influence and confront the established Western nations by backing Jewish aspirations in Palestine. The alliance also allowed Mussolini to distract attention away from home difficulties and present Italy as a key actor on the international stage.
Revisionist Zionists, on the other hand, saw cooperation with Italy as a pragmatic way to promote their goals of establishing a Jewish homeland. They hoped that by allying with a mighty European power, they could counteract British control in Palestine. Mutual visits between revisionist leaders and the Italian dictatorship, the promotion of settlement initiatives, and even the founding of a Jewish regiment inside the Italian army were all part of this collaboration.
However, the alliance encountered difficulties on numerous fronts. Many Zionists, particularly those with more left-wing and socialist ideas, were wary of cooperating with a state that opposed democracy and human rights. Jabotinsky and his revisionist supporters faced internal criticism as well as hostility from other Zionists who considered cooperation with Italy as compromising their ethical beliefs.
The intricate link between Mussolini’s Italy and Revisionist Zionism must be understood in the context of global politics. The complex geopolitics of the era are extensively covered in “The Age of Extremes” (Hobsbawm, 1996). The growth of Arab nationalism in Palestine, spurred by resentment against Zionist immigration and British policy, exacerbated the situation. During this time, Arab opposition to Zionist objectives grew stronger, increasing tension and conflict.
The partnership between Mussolini’s Italy and Revisionist Zionism was ultimately short-lived and failed to achieve its planned goals. This alliance’s failure is analysed in “Mussolini and the Jews” (Michaelis, 1978). Changing geopolitical conditions, internal disagreements within both parties and the start of World War II all contributed to the movement’s demise. The historical context lays the groundwork for understanding the complexity of this connection and its impact on later events in the region.
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Anderson, Benedict. 1983. “Imagined Communities.” London: Verso.
MacMillan, Margaret. 2003. “Paris 1919.” New York: Random House.
Bosworth, Richard. 2002. “Mussolini.” London: Arnold.
Segev, Tom. 2000. “The Seventh Million.” New York: Hill and Wang.
Knox, MacGregor. 1982. “Mussolini Unleashed
Nicosia, Francis R. 2008. “Zionism and Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany.” New York: Cambridge University Press.
Khalidi, Rashid. 1998. “Palestinian Identity.” New York: Columbia University Press.
Hobsbawm, Eric. 1996. “The Age of Extremes.” New York: Pantheon.
Michaelis, Meir. 1978. “Mussolini and the Jews.” Oxford: Clarendon Press.