Friday, July 13, 2007

Two Bad Arguments for Political Zionism

1) The Holocaust proved Herzl right. Because of antisemitism, Jews will never be safe until they have a state of their own.

2) Had the State of Israel existed in 1939, a large number of the six million would have been saved.

Of course, neither argument has anything to do with having a Jewish state in Palestine. Even if both were valid, they would not provide sufficient justification for displacing the Palestinians, unless the latter were themselves responsible for the Holocaust. I don’t even think they would justify giving a large chunk of Germany to the Jewish people after World War II, but that is at least debatable.

The first proposition is untested. Since 1948, very few Jews have had their physical safety threatened that was unrelated to the State of Israel. So had there been no Zionism movement, it is not clear that, after 1945, the physical security of the Jews would have been worse off. Arguably, it would be better off. As Y. Leibowitz used to say, Israel has been indirectly and directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of Jews -- but Israel has not saved the life of a single Jew that would have been at threat had there been no Zionist movement. (Well, maybe one or two…)

The second proposition is a historical counterfactual, and hence it has no real force. Let us assume that it is true; it does sound reasonable. But so what? Had Hitler not come to power in 1933, even more of the six million would have been saved. And it was more likely for Hitler not to come to power in 1933 then for there to be a Jewish state in 1939. In fact, it was because of the Holocaust that Israel came into existence when it did.

There are much better arguments for political zionism than these. I will consider them at a later date.


Anonymous said...

Let's start with #2 first.

The main purpose of the State was to allow open immigration of Jews to Palestine. The British mandate didn't allow it, and a bi-national state proposed by Buber and Magnes wouldn't allow it either.

Had either of those solutions provided for complete open immigration, perhaps a state might not have been necessary. But as you said, that would be a counterfactual.

Immigration to Palestine would have and did save Jewish lives. That is not deniable.

And therefore had a Jewish state existed during the Holocaust - the only entity allowing open Jewish immigration and escape from the ovens - large numbers would have been saved.

Now to #1 - this is the thing I find very hypocritical. If having a Jewish state did nothing to enhance the security of Jews, why did Leibowitz leave Latvia? Why did Buber leave Germany? And why didn't they return to those countries after the war? To find if having a Jewish state increased security for Jews, simply open your door and walk down your street.

Ask the Russian who immigrated in 1992, the Ethiopian who immigrated in 1991, the parents of the Yemenite, Iraqi, Moroccan - where did they feel more safe?

Jerry Haber said...

"And therefore had a Jewish state existed during the Holocaust - the only entity allowing open Jewish immigration and escape from the ovens - large numbers would have been saved."

Yes, I agree, but I also said that this was a counterfactual. Had there been no Holocaust then even larger numbers would have been saved.

Leibowitz and Buber came to Israel not because of their physical security but because of their ideological Zionism. They weren't refugees.

Look, I am making factual claims, and so if I am wrong, give me facts. Tell me that Israel saved the lives of Soviet Jews who would have died had they not come here. I will then point out that many Soviet Jews chose to go elsewhere, and that Israel tried to get that choice taken away from them.

I don't see how a Jew living in the US is less physically safe than one living here. Certainly, the odds of something happening to an Israeli are greater. (The odds of something happening to either are admittedly low.)

You may want to argue, as did Kahane, that America has the potential of turning into Germany, and that when that happens, where will the Jews go? I am not saying that Israel in the future, could not save Jews from extinction. I am just saying that it never did, and we should be grateful for that, right?

The question of open immigration was solely in order to get enough Jews here to justify a state. Israel wasn't doing the Jewish refugee a favor by letting them in, like, say, the Sudanese. They argued that this was their home.

Are you here because you felt unsafe where you came from? Or are you here -- like me -- for nationalist, Jewish reasons, regardless of the safety issue?

Anonymous said...

Is 6% really a large chunk? Germany is about 16 times bigger than Israel.

Jerry Haber said...

Not exactly sure of the relevance of your comment...let us just say the Eastern states of the US from Maryland to Maine, including NY and Pennsylvania, are around 6% of the US. that is a pretty big chunk.