Our studies in Western art and literature on orientalism are generally centralized around judgments about the East and Easterners. This presents a viewpoint to the one conducting the study and, in fact, the reader. We need to answer how productive this viewpoint is. For example, literary texts and films loaded with certain negative judgments, personal and character prejudices about Türkiye occupied our agenda for years. In fact, as these persons and characters were reproduced over time, studies on the subject may be read to understand the present day as well. However, we are faced with the productivity of the viewpoint here again. Since the judgments about the East and Easterners will be discussed in the context of how right or wrong they are, we will experience again the limitation problem presented by the viewpoint. As a reflection of this, Turkish literature is viewed from this point. It will be difficult with the current viewpoint to understand the mentality of those who produced these works. The fact that these studies are reduced to the judgments of two different worlds about one another is a very natural result. Studies on colonialism in Western literature and art will produce a more productive viewpoint instead. This will allow shifting political matters to a different ground.
The association of the orientalism and colonialism concepts is at the core of the problem here. Studying Western art and literature with these relations taken into consideration will reveal surprising results. The relationship between colonialism and orientalism can be analyzed within the context of the Palestine question. For example, is Israel a Jewish state, or a British colony established in Palestine? We will not answer this question based on our personal speculations. When you take Israel as a Jewish state, it would not be so hard to question the presence of Muslim Palestinians in Western literature. Jews were already long seen as a problem in the West, and the grounds to move them to Palestine could be very easily established. It is no surprise that the 1896 book by Theodor Herzl, the most important representative of Zionism, is titled, “A Jewish State.” Yet the matter should not have ended here. Israel was the U.K.’s new colonialist attempt in the 20th century. This is understood in the novel titled, “The Old New Land.” Herzl was living in Australia, and in “The Old New Land,” which he wrote six years after “A Jewish State,” provided enough information about the colony he dreamed of being built in Ottoman territory. It is clearly understood in the novel that Herzl dreams of a German colony in Palestine. However, considering the changing conditions of that period, he met with British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain, which laid the foundations of the British colony in Ottoman land.
In the next column, I will discuss Herzl’s “The Old New Land” novel. But for now, I would like to briefly say that the novel tells the journey of young Viennese intellect Friedrich Löwenberg and Prussian aristocrat Kingscourt to a Pacific island. The duo takes a break in Yafa. They see Palestine as an “underdeveloped and poor country with a small population.” We know that he uses the same descriptions for North America, Australia, and New Zealand as well. New Europes were built in all those places. The similarities between Palestinians and the local elements of countries that faced British colonialism are quite telling. Note also that the national language in Herzl’s new colony is German. In addition, as the author designed this “old-new country” as a colony, the expressions he uses against East European Jews are essentially extremely racist. Herzl imagines that they will become compliant with West Europe once they are civilized in the new colony.
It is very clear that the subject of orientalism in Western art and literature presents a limited viewpoint to the researcher as well as the reader. We tried to explain this through the Israel example. When you focus on orientalist images, disregarding the results of British colonial history is inevitable. This applies to other West European countries’ history as well. It is quite difficult today to analyze current political developments through the rightness or wrongness of the Eastern, Turkic, or Arab image.