Who was Leon Pinsker?

‘If other national movements which have risen before our eyes were their own justification, can it still be questioned whether the Jews have a similar right?’

 

 Dr Leon Pinsker [Autoemancipation, 1882]

As one of the first figures in the Jewish world to academically advance the case for Jewish self-determination, Pinsker embodies the character and spirit of an intellectual discussion of Jewish history and what has come to  be known as ''Zionism''. Pinsker’s 1882 tract, Autoemancipation, written following a meeting in England with the famed Arthur Cohen QC, remains one of the greatest intellectual defenses of the ''Jewish State'' - and it is in this spirit that we seek to make our case, and defend our rights to be heard.

Leon Pinsker, an Odessan physician, polemicist and thinker in his own right, stands as one of the giants of Jewish history – and yet, little over a century after his death, he is nearly entirely forgotten. Soon after the pogroms of 1881, he emphatically made the case that the persecution of the Jewish people would only be resolved by obtaining equal rights and more importantly, though self-determination: what he termed ''auto-emancipation.''

By educating about the history, philosophy and politics of the State of Israel and the Middle East – and avoiding politicised point scoring – we hope to transform campus discourse, to advance Pinsker’s thought, and to defend the project of his twilight years.

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