The Holocaust did not legitimize Zionism

If international public opinion does not understand that Jews deserved Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in 1933 no less than in 1948, it will infer that Zionism owes its legitimacy to Hitler.  

Rafael Castro, | updated: 19:11

Rafael Castro
Rafael Castro
INN:RF

Western support for Israel and the Jewish People based on shame and guilt due to the Holocaust is problematic. It implies that Jews in Israel are owed solidarity due to the wrongs of the past, rather than to their being right in the present.

Living in Berlin, I realize that many Europeans and particularly Germans support Israel more out of collective guilt and shame than genuine conviction. This is dangerous. As soon as these painful feelings ebb - as they inevitably are bound to - so will their support for Israel and Jews. Furthermore this guilt and shame can easily morph into resentment and rage.

In recent years polls have revealed that a worrisome number of Europeans compare Zionism with Nazism. In 2015, the Bertelsmann Foundation revealed that 35% of Germans feel it appropriate to equate Israel’s treatment of Palestinians with Nazis’ treatment of Jews. That this parallel is popular is no coincidence.

Until Europeans do not learn that Jewish self-determination predates the Holocaust, they will demonize Zionism to unburden their conscience and relieve their shame. We have seen this phenomenon happen throughout Europe. Germans have just followed suit.

As memories of Nazism recede and rightwing anti-Semitism declines, many Westerners assume that Jews would be safer without Zionism. The myth that Islamic anti-Semitism is wholly attributable to Zionism is so widespread, that even many Diaspora Jews believe it.

A cursory glance at Jewish history in Christian and Muslim lands demonstrates that in the Diaspora, Jewish safety largely depended on the goodwill of non-Jews and the meekness of Jews. This was especially true in the Muslim world where religious tolerance was premised on the complete subordination of Jews to Islamic hegemony.

Leveraging the Holocaust to legitimize Israel is nevertheless short-sighted. If international public opinion does not understand that Jews deserved Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in 1933 no less than in 1948, it will infer that Zionism owes its legitimacy to Hitler.  

Yet Zionism’s legitimacy does not depend on anti-Semitism or on the actions of anyone towards Jews. Zionism owes its legitimacy to 3000 years of uninterrupted Jewish history in the Land of Israel and 2000 years of Jews around the world praying for their exile to end. 

The world must know that Zionism allowed Jews to return to their historical homeland - not just to flee from oppressors. The Holocaust made Zionism urgent - not legitimate.  To deny this implies that Israel's legitimacy hinges on the relationship between Diaspora Jews and their neighbors.  This is no foundation for Jews to feel national pride and self-respect in the wake of Israel's 70th anniversary.

Rafael Castro is a Yale- and Hebrew University-educated political analyst based in Berlin. Rafael can be reached atrafaelcastro78@gmail.com.


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