Sunday, August 3, 2014

In Defense of Zionism by Michael Oren

Wall Street Journal   Mr. Oren was Israel's ambassador to the U.S. from 2009 to 2013. He holds the chair in international diplomacy at IDC Herzliya in Israel and is a fellow at the Atlantic Council. His books include "Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East" and "Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present."

 They come from every corner of the country—investment bankers, farmers, computer geeks, jazz drummers, botany professors, car mechanics—leaving their jobs and their families. They put on uniforms that are invariably too tight or too baggy, sign out their gear and guns. Then, scrambling onto military vehicles, 70,000 reservists—women and men—join the young conscripts of what is proportionally the world's largest citizen army. They all know that some of them will return maimed or not at all. And yet, without hesitation or (for the most part) complaint, proudly responding to the call-up, Israelis stand ready to defend their nation. They risk their lives for an idea.

The idea is Zionism. It is the belief that the Jewish people should have their own sovereign state in the Land of Israel. Though founded less than 150 years ago, the Zionist movement sprung from a 4,000-year-long bond between the Jewish people and its historic homeland, an attachment sustained throughout 20 centuries of exile. This is why Zionism achieved its goals and remains relevant and rigorous today. It is why citizens of Israel—the state that Zionism created—willingly take up arms. They believe their idea is worth fighting for.

Yet Zionism, arguably more than any other contemporary ideology, is demonized. "All Zionists are legitimate targets everywhere in the world!" declared a banner recently paraded by anti-Israel protesters in Denmark. "Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances," warned a sign in the window of a Belgian cafe. A Jewish demonstrator in Iceland was accosted and told, "You Zionist pig, I'm going to behead you."

In certain academic and media circles, Zionism is synonymous with colonialism and imperialism. Critics on the radical right and left have likened it to racism or, worse, Nazism. And that is in the West. In the Middle East, Zionism is the ultimate abomination—the product of a Holocaust that many in the region deny ever happened while maintaining nevertheless that the Zionists deserved it.

What is it about Zionism that elicits such loathing? After all, the longing of a dispersed people for a state of their own cannot possibly be so repugnant, especially after that people endured centuries of massacres and expulsions, culminating in history's largest mass murder. Perhaps revulsion toward Zionism stems from its unusual blend of national identity, religion and loyalty to a land. Japan offers the closest parallel, but despite its rapacious past, Japanese nationalism doesn't evoke the abhorrence aroused by Zionism.[...]

But not all of Zionism's critics are bigoted, and not a few of them are Jewish. For a growing number of progressive Jews, Zionism is too militantly nationalist, while for many ultra-Orthodox Jews, the movement is insufficiently pious—even heretical. How can an idea so universally reviled retain its legitimacy, much less lay claim to success?

The answer is simple: Zionism worked. The chances were infinitesimal that a scattered national group could be assembled from some 70 countries into a sliver-sized territory shorn of resources and rich in adversaries and somehow survive, much less prosper. The odds that those immigrants would forge a national identity capable of producing a vibrant literature, pace-setting arts and six of the world's leading universities approximated zero.[...]


  1. Anti Zionists have a point. Biologically speaking, modern Jews have a huge suffusion of foreign blood. When the Balfour declaration was penned, insisting on the preservation of the rights of those living in the land, 80% of the people here were Arabs. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia told Roosevelt at the end of WW2, if 3 million Jews were killed in Poland, that means there's room for Jews in Poland. Arabs argue: why should they pay for Europe's crimes during the war.
    Zionism worked? Herzl's original idea was that becoming a normal nation, Jews would be accepted. The opposite happened.

  2. Verification of AddressAugust 3, 2014 at 9:58 PM

    @DaasTorah - I posted many comments today, but I don't see them at all; So pls let me know if you don't intend to approve my comments anymore, so I should know not to waste my time for them.

  3. Kano'us, extremism, has taken over the frum world. Young bachurim, as young people in general, like extremism. History has been reconstructed to make it appear as if R. Aharon and the Satmarer Rov were close to each other, which I don't believe was true.

    Many gedolim believed at one point that the establishment of Israel was the actual ge'ula, or at least a good thing. R. Schrage Feivel Mendelowitz and the Pupa Rov both said shecheianu in 1948. Additionally, the Kovner Rov was head of the Mizrachi of Lithuania. R. Yaakov Kaminetzky belonged to the Mizrachi in Toronto, etc. etc.

    What was Rav Elyashiv's opinion? After all, he did officiate in Heichal Shlomo and was part of the Rabbanut.

    Can a believing (or even a non-believing) Jew maintain that the in-gathering of exiles in our generation is not the beginning of the redemption?

  4. I am not addressing the theological aspects of Zionism. I am explaining why the Arab world and their supporters rejected and reject a Jewish state in the middle of an Arab/Moslem heartland.

  5. Understood. I wanted to bring up the topic to stimulate discussion. Perhaps the good Rabbi could start a separate post on the topic.


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