During the last decade of that century, the French political establishment
was rocked by the Dreyfus Affair: Captain Alfred Dreyfus, an assimilated Jew and
career officer in the French army, was accused of spying for Germany. In spite
of his protestations at his trial in 1894, and the many clearly judicial
irregularities, he was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment in
France's notorious penal colony, Devil's Island. An Austrian journalist - also
an assimilated Jew - Theodore Herzl, writing for the Viennese "Neue Frei
Presse", was assigned to Paris to cover the trial. As a result of what he
saw and heard, he became convinced that the constant persecution to which the
Jew was subjected could be relieved only by the Jewish Peoples re-establishing
themselves, once again in the eyes of the world, as citizens of their own
country. Herzl managed to convince many wealthy and interested Jews and together
they arranged the First Zionist Congress which took place in Basle in 1897. The
Zionist Party was formed and the modern history of the Jewish people began
culminating in the re-establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
In the meantime, Emile Zola, the eminent French writer became convinced of the subterfuge and deliberate framing of evidence against the innocent Alfred Dreyfus and in an unprecedented attack on the French military and political establishments, he laid bare the blatant anti-Semitism, which had motivated them and the deliberate cover-up and with-holding of evidence which proved Dreyfus' innocence conclusively and without doubt. His open letter to the French president M. Félix Faure, "J'Accuse" published on 13th January 1898, in "L'Aurore" became a world famous indictment which shook the French nation and took decades for France to come to terms with - and led eventually to Dreyfus' release. (Click here, if you would like one of the best English language sites on the topic of Captain Dreyfus and Emile Zola to start you off - there are many) and there is an excellent French site on "The Dreyfus Affair" here.
Captain Dreyfus was rehabilitated with full seniority, served his country with distinction as a senior officer and died in 1935.
Herzl burnt himself out in his zeal and efforts to obtain as much
international support as possible for his plans to recreate the Jewish homeland,
even weighing a plan to settle Uganda - an initial consideration of which lost
him much favour with his supporters for a time (especially his grass-roots
support from hundreds of thousands of east European Jews, mostly on the
religious side of the divide), because "Uganda" is not the Holy Land of the
Jewish people and little or no enthusiasm could be found for the idea. Herzl
died in 1904 having prophesied at the time of the first Congress, seven years
earlier, that the Jewish State would be re-established in 50 years; he erred by
only one year!
During Kaiser Wilhelm's visit to the Holy Land, he met with Theodore Herzl at the agricultural college of Mikveh Yisrael just outside today's Tel-Aviv - an agricultural school still functioning, by the way. Herzl had also approached the Sultan with only moderate success, and the matter had been discussed by the Kaiser (with whom Herzl had made prior contact), and the Sultan.
So you can see I was not way-off target by claiming relevance; my connection
is admittedly somewhat tenuous - but it is there - all three personages
and the geographical sites associated with them are connected together in these
historical events. If you would like to read Zola's letter in English click here.
I am indebted to Dr. Guieu, of Georgetown University for his kindness and generosity in supplying me with his translation.