Zionism, colonialism and national liberation

In the 1950s and 1960s, I thought of Israel mainly as a refuge for Jewish refugees from Hitler and from the “displaced person” camps after World War Two.

Zionism was in fact partly a movement to give Jews a refuge from anti-Semites, but it was two other things as well.

Vladimir Jabotinsky

Vladimir Jabotinsky

It was a national liberation movement for people who had never before constituted an independent nation, like the Kurds today.  At the same time it was a colonial movement, an attempt to take over a land inhabited by other people.

Vladimir Jabotinsky, one of the early Israeli settlers, saw clearly that Zionist leaders were kidding themselves if they thought they could peacefully co-exist with Arabs.  Neither Arabs nor anybody else will ever tolerate being made a minority in their own country.

He called upon his fellow Zionists to face up to the fact that Zionism was colonialism, and that making the Palestine Mandate a Jewish nation could not be accomplished without force.

He said peace between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs could only happen when the Arabs were convinced that the Jews could not be dislodged by means of force.

Israelis today think of themselves as a nation like any other, fighting to maintain their national existence.  Palestinian Arabs and their allies think of Israelis as invaders, like the white settlers of the former Rhodesia.  The problem is that both beliefs are true.

I think that someday both sides will accept that neither one can get rid of the other, and they have no choice but to live together in peace.


The Jewish Terrorists by Asaf Sharon for The New York Review of Books.  [Hat tip to my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack]

The Iron Wall by Vladimir Jabotinsky (1923)  [Hat tip to Jack]

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