I am not convinced by the WSJ op-ed of former Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren that Zionism is or was a good thing. He has a lot to say about how wonderful Israel is economically and politically, but he ignores the most important aspect of Zionism, the creation of Israel. He also glosses over the fact that Israel’s wonderful democracy treats a number of people very badly, starting with the Palestinians in Gaza. Gaza is not a country, but most Gazans are not Israeli citizens. This is a “democracy” with a heavy strain of apartheid or at least very poor treatment of second class residents.
The problem goes back to Israel’s founding. It was one of the first acts of the new United Nations after World War II, but I think it has turned out to be one of the worst UN mistakes. The Palestinians were living in Palestine, albeit under some kind of British protectorate, rather than as an independent nation. Nevertheless, the Jews had not lived in Palestine as a nation for at least 1,000 years. It is as if someone came to your house and said, “My great-grandfather used to live in this house 100 years ago; I’m taking it back. Get out!” The Jews claim they have title to the land because God gave it to them 4,000 years ago, but I’m not sure that non-Jews have to take this title at face value. Jesus, Paul and Peter made the Jewish God available to Christians; so, it’s not clear that the Jews are still the only people chosen by God. And what about other gods, the Muslim God for example? I don’t think the Palestinians agree that the Jews are God’s only chosen people, even if the United Nations said they were.
If the Jews are God’s chosen people and the Palestinians (and everybody else) are not, they have God’s approval to slaughter non-Jews occupying the Promised Land, and that’s what they have been doing. But if this is truly a racial thing, how many Jews today are blood descendants of Abraham? Do converts also acquire God’s permission to slaughter infidels on the Promised Land? Is the right to slaughter non-Jews in the Promised Land acquired by race or religion? Or was it simply granted by the UN’s creation of the state of Israel?
Zionism predates the Holocaust, but Israel is inextricable tied to the Holocaust. It’s unlikely that the UN would have created Israel if it had not been for the suffering of the Jews in the Holocaust. To some extent the UN said, “Let the Palestinians make reparations for what Hitler did to the Jews.” Not surprisingly, the Palestinians were not too happy about being designated to pay Europe’s debt.
The bottom line: I’m not convinced that Zionism is/was a good thing. Israel may be the most democratic country in the Middle East, but given the Jews history, it should be more understanding and forgiving of the hardships of the countries surrounding it. The Jews are criticized (with justification) for meekly walking into the death camps, with some exceptions, such as the Warsaw ghetto uprising. In Israel they fought to preserve Israel from Arab attacks like they never did to defend themselves in Europe. But now they begin to become the oppressors, appearing to be getting revenge for being oppressed in Europe. Thus Zionism begins to look like a way to get revenge, not a way to establish a Jewish nation. And as the Israeli Jews lose the high moral ground, Zionism loses the high moral ground and becomes just some kind of racist, oppressive regime like those under which the Jews suffered for centuries in Europe.