Today, H.G. Wells (1866-1946) is primarily known for his science fiction novels Invisible Man and War of the Worlds. For the majority of his career, however, Wells regarded himself as a political and social theorist, writing books like A Modern Utopia and a pre-WWII philosophical treatise, The Shape of Things to Come, which predicted a major conflict in Europe.
In the years before World War I, Wells, who was not Jewish, became interested in Territorialism. This was a proto-Zionist school of thought that called for a Jewish homeland–though not necessarily one in the historical Land of Israel. Wells was initially interested in the possibility of a Jewish state that was presented to him by a fellow writer, Israel Zangwill, and saw it as a version of his own utopian philosophy. However, Wells soon turned hostile toward Zionism, perceiving in it an implied ethnic superiority. “I can offer you neither help nor advice,” he wrote to Zangwill, on the topic of a Jewish state. “Your people are rich enough, able enough, and potent enough to save themselves.”
After World War II, when the truth about the Holocaust became known, Wells again changed his mind, rescinded his earlier statements, and became a vocal supporter of the State of Israel. In fact, he initiated a correspondence with Chaim Weizmann, who would become the first president of Israel, and gave him pointers about starting a new country–not that Wells had ever done it firsthand, but he’d certainly written a lot about it.
July 11, 2012