Since the day the term came to light, Zionism received much name calling.
Originally, in 1897, under Theodore Herzl’s leadership, Zionism was established as a political organization for the establishment of a Jewish national and/or religious community in then-Palestine, and later for the establishment of the modern state of Israel. Nowadays, Zionism is the trajectory along which the sovereign state of Israel keeps on developing and thriving.
Simply, Zionism is the Jewish national liberation movement. Jews freed themselves from the grip of exile, from living in exile as a fringe society, from centuries of anti-Semitism and persecution in foreign lands, from being thrown out of countries where they established communities. They were expelled at the whim of the ruler, from Pogroms and by mass murder.
More accurately, the Zionism story actually began in the Bible, and could be seen as one of the world’s oldest love stories – a love triangle between the Jewish people, the Land of Israel and their God that guided and still guides them.
Zionism guidelines supported the November 29, 1947, two-year-old United Nations (U.N) vote – with 33 ‘yay’, 13 ‘nay’ and 10 abstaining – to declare a Jewish state in the state of Israel.
Technically, the U.N. November 29, 1947 vote, was on Resolution 181, which was to partition the land, at that time named ‘Palestine,’ and create there one independent Jewish state and one independent Arab state.
The Jews in the land held their breath as the resolution passed and gave the Zionists the thrill. The Jews came out to the streets and danced the horah – an adaption of a Romanian dance, performed in a ring formation that became Israel’s national dance – sang their new national anthem Hatikvah and waved the blue and white flag, with the David Star in its center.
Jews around the world joined in as the exalting news spread. Finally, the Jews could return to their ancient land.
It was two years after World War II ended. The war, from 1939 to 1945, saw the extermination of one of every three Jews living then in the world, in what became known as the Holocaust. The Holocaust, also referred to as the Shoah, was a genocide during World War II in which Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany, aided by its collaborators, systematically murdered some six million European Jews, around two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe.
There was much for Jews to exalt about, yet to also fear and be anxious about.
The Jews who survived the Holocaust felt the relief from the yoke of anti-Semitic humiliations. From that U.N. resolution vote onward, from the moment the Jews could declare their own independent state, they felt they would never again be bullied, just because they are Jews.
The sequel was in play. The United Nations approved making Israel a state and Harry Truman, the United States President at that time, was the first to cast his ‘yay’ vote to make it happen.
The Arabs rejected the United Nations 181 Resolution Partition Plan for the land of Palestine, that theoretically could have brought peace in the land from the get-go. Yet, the Jews said ‘Amen’ – the word uttered at the end of a prayer or hymn, meaning ‘so be it’ – for finally having a homeland.
No one should assume that a single United Nations’ vote created the state of Israel. One should beware that the way the U.N. passes a ‘yay’ resolution it also can take it away. And never forget that Israel’s foes are always trying to take away what was given.
The modern state of Israel is the third Jewish Commonwealth in the very same land. The legitimacy of a Jewish commonwealth is rooted in thousands of years of national identity and history in the land. Before Theodore Herzl embarked on his Zionist quest, over the centuries there were other Jewish initiatives to return to the land of King Saul, King David and King Solomon.
Dreaming Zionism, dreaming Zion, which is Jerusalem, was in the blood cells of every Jew who knew his or her heritage. The desire was already there and with it the case was already made. The basic infrastructure was already prepared and so, the moment had arrived – with or without the declared international license. The U.N.’s Resolution 181 was only an approval that gave the Jews a good tailwind to sail toward statehood as fast as possible.
However, the premise of U.N. Resolution 181 can be seen to be more complicated. Two years after the Holocaust, in 1947, most Jews viewed their national narrative through these four factors:
- Counting 3,500 years, all the way back to Forefather Abraham and his wife, Foremother Sarah, who, as Jewish tradition goes, started Jewish story when they founded the Jewish nation that was deeply tied to the Land of Israel.
- Jews emphasized the 70 C.E. historical disastrous and traumatic turning point event when Roman invaders in the land burned to the ground the Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, followed by hundreds of years of exile and powerlessness, even though a Jewish remnant and a Jewish community, to one extent or another, was always present in the land of Israel.
- Already in the late 19th century, the modern push to redeem the land of what the Romans renamed ‘Palestina’ began. The great wave of Jewish migration to the land of Israel commenced in 1881, with the flight from pogroms in Tsarist Russia. Amid other Romantic nationalist movements of that time, Zionism also emerged, being the Jewish national movement.
- Already ruled as the Mandate for Palestine, with increasing Jewish presence in the land, Jews had suffered a wretched 11-year period – from 1936 to 1939 – in which the Arabs living in the land violently rioted and murdered Jews, what triggered the ruling Brits to limit Jewish immigration – NOT Arab- to then Palestine, just as Adolf Hitler targeted the Jews of Europe and beyond. The Arabs turned to use extremism and hostility – fueled by a Hitlerism and anti-Semitism and tapping into radical Islam potential – rejected any possible coexisting and peace compromise. Their Hitlerite Mohammed Amin al-Husseini Mufti bragged: “We do not fear the Jews. They will eventually crumble into nothing.” That was the mantra then and though slowly losing its hot air, it is still the Arabs’ hope today.
Millions of Jews died in blood drenched Europe just because they had nowhere to run away to, because the Brits, ruling the Mandate of Palestine, closed entry to the land with their White Papers decree – the infamous White Papers issued during the British Mandate in 1922, 1930 & 1939, limiting Jewish immigration to the land to a total of 75,000 in a five-year period.
No country wanted the influx of Jews wishing to escape war torn Europe. That included the British who controlled the Mandate for Palestine, despite its being recognized as the national Jewish homeland – since the Balfour Declaration of 1917 – and a budding Jewish state thirsting for more Jewish immigrants.
After World War II, on October 24, 1945, the United Nations (U.N.) organization was established with the goal of preventing another such conflict. From its founding, the U.N., followed the motto “Never Again,” meaning, never will the cadre of free nations allow a Holocaust to happen again. It so appeared that the international community began to recognize that a Jewish state was the best “Never Again” antidote and a guarantee. The Nazis’ mass murder of Jews evoked sympathy for Jews and their Zionism dreams.
Chronology of the UN vote
Initially, the Zionist Chaim Weizmann ridiculed the U.N. vote saying, “It is cutting the child in two.” When the Peel Commission – formally known as the Palestine Royal Commission, was a British Royal Commission of Inquiry, headed by Lord Peel, appointed in 1936 to investigate the causes of unrest in British Mandate for Palestine following the six-month-long Arab general strike in Mandatory Palestine – endorsed the duo-state idea, Weizmann recognized the occurring critical process. Also, Viscount Herbert Samuel, Britain’s first High Commissioner of Palestine, feared the emerging two unviable states – Jewish and Arab – tangled in a hostile embrace, like two fighting serpents.
David Ben-Gurion called the partition of the land “half loaf.” As painful as it would be to accept the partition the conversation started to shift from whether there would or should be a Jewish state to what borders it would have.
The Oil Elixir
President Harry Truman was in favor of establishing a Jewish state in the land that was designated for it. He was also often shuddered by diplomats and military generals all warning him that supporting a Jewish state for few hundred thousand Jews would alienate hundreds of millions of oil-rich Arabs. But Truman asserted, “I will handle the problem not in the light of oil, but in the light of justice.”
Though sympathetic, President Truman felt the pressure that came from telegrams, cards and mail, mostly sent by Jews, all with the subject relating to the ‘Palestine issue, all subjecting the White House to this crucial matter; 65% of Americans supported establishing this Jewish state and that was no number to ignore.
The Soviet Union went above all speculation when it supported the establishment of a Jewish state, in a way reflecting the global consensus. Despite the emerging which turned prolonged Cold War, on this issue the Soviets and the Americans cooperated and pushed for the vote of the U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 that carved out a Jewish state and allowed for an undefined Arab territory for an Arab state, strongly suggesting that Jerusalem will be an international zone city.
Ambassador Andrei Gromyko, the Soviet Union envoy to the U.N stated the obvious: “All the alternative solutions of the Palestinian problem were found to be unworkable and impracticable. … Jews and Arabs do not wish, or are unable, to live together.” Here I will correct Gromyko’s statement, by now to be proven wrong: “Arabs, not Jews, do not wish, and/or are unable, to live alongside, peacefully, with Jews.”
Sarcastically though, The Soviet Union and its U.N. envoy Gromyko gave legitimacy to the Jewish state which they would after spend some 40 long years delegitimizing. Gromyko expressed himself and said, “The Jewish people have been closely linked with Palestine for a considerable period in history” and “the Jews, as a people, have suffered more than any other people.”
In November 1947, the U.N. member states gave a spark of honor and respect to the Jewish people and thus consecrated their collective promise to the devastated Jewish people and gave them back what was theirs for millennia, which they unquestionably deserved, their Jewish commonwealth land.
It was a dramatic vote. While Jews in Israel and around the world held their breath and had their ears anxiously closely tuned to the radio broadcast, all reflected the expectation the world had from the newly born U.N. organization, to have fair political power and moral standing, for which, at the time, it was established.
Moshe Shertok, later was known as Moshe Sharett – was the second Prime Minister of Israel, serving for a little under two years between David Ben-Gurion’s two terms – at that time was heading the political section of the Jewish Agency, acting the Palestinian Jews’ government-in-formation. He was known to have said, “My first feeling is that not only has our cause triumphed at Flushing Meadows [the site of the U.N. vote], but the U.N. has triumphed through our cause. This is the first time that the U.N. and the civilized world have decided to create a new state.”
Looking back 70 years, many U.N. member states have shown some degree of regret to have supported this history changing, monumental vote.
The Arabs rejected U.N. Resolution 181 and immediately were ready to fight the Jews and drive them away from the land. The Arabs sharpened their spines, or quills, aiming them at the Jews.
The partitioned Jewish state had indefensible borders thus, making war inevitable. And war was to come quickly.
From the days of British rule in the Mandate for Palestine, enmity between Arabs and Jews was fermented.
Arab leaders, in all Arab states surrounding the land of Israel and farther, displayed ongoing and systematic refusal to permit the existence of a Jewish state in the land of Israel. Rooted Moslem-Arab anti-Semitism sentiments and hostility toward Jews barred them from acknowledging Jews’ basic national rights. They became the infamous-proverbial enemy of Jews and the state of Israel.
The Arabs, and many states, the world over, rooting for them, underestimated the power of 3,500 years of Jews being connected to their biblical land, yearning to return to it.
Jew-hatred united the Arab leaders. The newly formed band of Arab-‘Palestinian’ leadership rejected any possible compromise, known to be declared at the 1967 Khartoum Conference: The Three ‘Noes.’ The conference set official Arab policy in relation to Israel: NO peace with Israel, NO recognition of Israel, NO negotiations.
And the Arabs, members of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), all members of the U.N., continuously repudiated the U.N. The Saudi Arabian Emir Faisal al-Saud was heard saying, “Today’s resolution destroys the [U.N.] Charter.” And Syria’s Faris al-Khoury said, it was “murdered.”
Taking a widespread look at Arab-Jewish sociability before the 1947 U.N. vote, with the violence of leaders such as the Grand Mufti and other Arab instigators, one can easily conclude that neither the U.N. nor the Americans, not the Soviets or the Jews betrayed the Arabs with their newly adopted name ‘Palestinians.’
They were simply betrayed then and are betrayed now and will continue being betrayed by feckless, extremist leaders who, for their own personal gain, resist reality, undermine peace, still hoping and doing all they can to destroy the one Jewish state established on a small sliver of land where Abraham and Sarah first arrived and then Jews arrived with the hope to fulfill a 3,500-year-old dream.
Israel Is No One’s Real Estate
Though way too many see it this way, Israel is not a piece of real estate and there are no multiple claims to the land. One can firmly affirm that historically, biblically, legally and ecumenistically give the Jews priority and much exclusive rights to the land.
For thousands of years, due to exile and national weakness, while away from their homeland, Jews have prayed toward Jerusalem, where the two holy temples once stood. Jews learned the biblical language and remained tied – with prayer and hope – to the land their ancestors once inhabited.
The composition of history, ethics of modern nationalism and the principles of justice all validate Zionism, the modern movement for Jewish nationalism, categorizing Jews as a people having collective rights to establish – and since it was established, today to perfect – a nation-state in their homeland.
These claims are legitimate and are older and more morally compelling than the other 192 national claims of the states nowadays making up the U.N. body. Just like any valid nationalistic movement, Jews have the full right to take control of their own national destiny; they are allowed to, once again, say, from here on and forever, we are in charge of our destiny.
Dancing in the streets of Palestine and seeing the blue and white flag waving while hearing the Hatikvah being sung only reflected gratitude the Jews had for this culmination of 1,900-year yearning for Zion and the recent 50-year pursuit for Jewish statehood.
With optimism as to the role of the newly acting United Nations Organization, the Zionist leader Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver noted this, “turning point in Jewish history,” by saying, “noble decision to re-establish and restore the Jewish people to its rightful place in the family of nations will redound to the everlasting credit of the United Nations.”
Silver’s hope for a fair and honest U.N. was short lived as this organization turned to be nothing more than Israel’s foe, constantly marginalizing the Jewish state and applying unheard-of double standards to her.
The partition plan map the U.N. created was simply an impractical state, impossible to defend. Such borders made a military option for the surrounding Arab states much more appealing; the neighboring Arab dictators assumed their armies would crush the Jews and end Israel’s existence. And depriving the Jewish people their heart and soul, their capital, Jerusalem, was like draining the blood out of every Jew.
Not surprising, some Jews mourned the U.N partitioning resolution. Menachem Begin, then the leader of Irgun, the Revisionist Zionist underground movement, later the Prime Minister of Israel, bemoaned: “The Homeland has not liberated, rather mutilated.” He vowed then and persistently pursued his political stance: “Eretz Israel [land of Israel] will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And forever.”
The State of Israel Came to Be
The state of Israel came to be because Theodore Herzl dreamed big: “if you will, if you like, if you want, it is no dream.” – אם תרצו, אין זו אגדה – ‘Im teertzu, ein zu agada’!
The state of Israel came to be because Jews always yearned to return home from where they were expelled against their will.
And if an international covenant with the Jewish people came to be, it was sealed on Nov. 29, 1947, when the U.N. approved the Palestine Partition Plan: one Jewish state and one Arab state living side-by-side in peace and harmony! The Jews complied, the Arabs rejected the international covenant. If, for a while the Jewish people’s state enjoyed a special status and the U.N. voted it into being, this bond between the U.N. and Israel was fast forgotten and did not last.
David Ben Gurion, then acting as the Jewish Agency Chairman, rose to the occasion and against all odds, on Friday, May 14, 1948, in the Independence Hall, in Tel Aviv, he proclaimed Israel’s independence, reestablishing the Jewish state after a 2,000 year pause.
In a Friday afternoon ceremony, Ben-Gurion pronounced the words “We hereby proclaim the establishment of the Jewish state in Palestine, to be called Israel,” prompting applause and tears from the crowd gathered at the museum. Ben-Gurion became Israel’s first premier.
On Thursday, April 19, 2018, the State of Israel’s declaration of independence will be reenacted in full, marking the country’s 70th platinum-jubilee anniversary.
Seventy years later, the State of Israel is an example to follow.
Seven decades later, we leave the sediment of bitterness aside and give the U.N. its due, for its Resolution 181, while also toasting the stunning Jewish triumph in re-initiating a Jewish state.
No matter who writes history, it is rather apparent that all too often Jewish history, was and is been written by oppressors of the Jewish people. Today, with a strong and thriving state of Israel there is no excuse to let history be written by foes who try hard to whitewash Jewish history and diligently work to de-Judaize Israel and delegitimize her.
We are a few months away from a historic anniversary. The state of Israel will be celebrating its 70-year-old birthday. Its life extension is already marked to be longer than King David’s and King Solomon’s combined kingdom’s reign.
Under the national flag, under the umbrella of Jewish pride and proud Jews, today, there is room to declare that the Jewish people greatly appreciate and will forever appreciate others’ assistance. However, celebrating the state of Israel, the only Jewish state on earth, is celebrating the achievements that came to be because the Jewish people were determined and they were instrumental in dictating their own terms of destiny to have made it all happen.