The Hungarian-born Austrian Jewish author Theodor Herzl (1860-1904) founded the World Zionist Organization and served as its first president.
Theodor Herzl, son of Jacob and JeanetteHerzl, was born on May 2, 1860, in Budapest, Hungary, where he attended elementary and secondary schools. In 1878 he was admitted as a law student to the University of Vienna, but after a year oflegal studies he switched to journalism. He worked for the Allgemeine Zeitung of Vienna until 1892, when he took an assignment in Paris as correspondent for the Vienna Neue Freie Presse. In this capacityhe reported on the Dreyfus Affair in 1894, and he was greatly troubled by the anti-Semitism he saw in France at the time. In 1896 Herzl started his political career with the publication of hispamphlet The Jewish State: An Attempt at a Modern Solution of the Jewish Question.
According to The Jewish State, persecution could not destroy the Jewish people but would accomplish the opposite: it wouldstrengthen Jewish identification. In Herzl's view, effective assimilation of the Jews would be impossible because of the long history of prejudice and the competition between the non-Jewish andJewish middle classes. Because of conditions in the Jewish Diaspora, some communities might disintegrate, but the people as a whole would always survive. Herzl believed that the Jews had little choice butto begin the concentration of the Jewish people in one land under its own sovereign authority. To achieve this purpose, he organized the First Zionist Congress, which met in Basel, Switzerland, inAugust 1897. This meeting marked the establishment of the World Zionist Organization, whose executives were to be the diplomatic and administrative representatives of the Zionist movement. Herzl becamepresident of the organization, a post he held until his death.
The official goal of the World Zionist Organization was the establishment of "a secured homeland in Palestine for the Jewish people."...