Jerusalem: Zionism’s Achilles Heel


          The Zionist Movement was started by Austro-Hungarian journalist Theodor Herzl in 1896 following the publication of his book Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State).  It was in response to anti-semetism.  To get away from prejudice, Herzl decided that the Jews needed a state of their own.


            A state in Palestine was preferable, so Herzl started negotiating with the Ottomans.  Even at that time, Herzl recognized, as he wrote in Der Judenstaat, “Immigration is futile unless we have the sovereign right to continue such immigration.”


            Many Zionists wanted to live in Palestine regardless of whether or not they were allowed, which is why Jews who move to Palestine refer to it as “Aliyah” which means ascent.  They don’t immigrate to Palestine, they ascend.  The Zionists are like Harvard, they have a unique word for common activities, that’s what sets them apart.  The reintroduction of Hebrew as a living language is considered one of Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion’s great achievements.


            So, if you want to move to a new neighborhood and make sure that you won’t fit in, just start talking a new language that no one who already lives there can understand.  This, in itself, is proof that the Zionists never intended to get along with the Palestinians and wanted to be separated from the people already living there.


            In 1903, Great Britain offered the Zionists a tract of land in East Africa for a Jewish State.  In 1905, the Zionists rejected the offer because it was not the historical land of Israel, and especially, Jerusalem.


            In the 1930’s, as the position of the Jews in Europe became untenable, even Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the militarist Zionist and founder of the terrorist organization Irgun, wondered if the Zionists had erred in rejecting the East African option.  At least Jews would have had a place to go.


            In January 1944, with the Holocaust in full swing in Europe, the mainstream American Zionist organizations persuaded a number of legislators to introduce a sense-of-Congress resolution urging the United States to ensure “that the doors of Palestine shall be opened for free entry of Jews into the country…so that the Jewish people may ultimately reconstitute Palestine as a free and democratic Jewish commonwealth.”


            Even at this late date, some of the Nazi allied countries like Bulgaria, Rumania and Hungary were willing to let their Jewish population emigrate, but only by those guaranteed a port of embarkation.  Unrestricted immigration into Palestine was a non-starter, because the Allies needed Arab cooperation in the war effort. Access to oil was one of German’s major war aims and the allies needed the cooperation of the Arabs to keep the fuel away from the Axis powers and flowing into their tanks.


            Saudi Arabia was building a pipeline to the Mediterranean and the only airplane fuel refinery outside North America was in Abadan, Iran.  Nevertheless, a compromise resolution was suggested by the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe which urged Congress to support a resolution that simply urged the British to open up temporary emergency camps in Palestine from which Jewish refugees could be repatriated elsewhere after the war.


            However, this measure was harshly attacked by Rabbi Stephen Wise and other members of the American Jewish establishment since it might set a precedent for the expulsion of Jewish immigrants from Palestine after the war.  In other words, for the Zionist leadership, saving the lives of Jews took a back seat to the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.  In 1905 and in 1944, insistence that the Jewish State had to include Jerusalem condemned hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Jews to death.


            The desire, not just for Jerusalem, but for all of Jerusalem, was one of the major causes of the 1967 Six Day War when Israel attacked Egypt.  Israeli, Jewish and American leaders routinely lie about who started the Six Day War.  Israel attacked Egypt (that’s how they managed to obliterate Egypt’s air force in the first hours of the war, it was a sneak attack.) That brought Jordan and Syria into the war (which the Israelis anticipated) and then the Israelis conquered the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights.


            In 2000, Ariel Sharon triggered the second intifada by a visit to Jerusalem.  So, given the fact that four times in the past century the Zionists’ insistence on sovereignty over Jerusalem has been the reason for the deaths of Jews and the increasing insecurity of Israel, one would think that the Zionists would want to think of a way to defuse this most contentious of all issues.  If the problem of Jerusalem could be solved, all the other problems would be solved in short order.


            But no, the current leadership in Israel, which, like the Bush administration in the United States lost the election but took office anyway, is digging in its heels and, in fact, going further in the wrong direction by claiming religious sites on the West Bank and building more Jewish housing in East Jerusalem.  Palestinians who live there can not obtain building permits, so the claims that it is “vacant land” or that the Palestinians have done nothing with it (a familiar claim similar to the misuse of eminent domain in the United States because some developer can think of a “better” use for the property) are fatuous.


            Jerusalem is the elephant in the Middle East conflict.  It must be solved for a peaceful solution and it is the Israelis’ insistence on maintaining sovereignty over all of Jerusalem, in violation of international law, that is and always has been, the major cause of the conflict.  There is no peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict that includes Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem, it is just that simple.


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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf