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*Editor’s Note: This is the fifth installment in the most recent series of articles from Jewish Press Online contributor, Alex Grobman, PhD  

Failure to establish a Jewish National Home in Palestine would have deprived the Jewish people a share in the division of the Ottoman Empire, where they had lived for centuries. Failure would also have enabled the Arab people to acquire nearly all of the Ottoman inheritance, which would have been clearly unacceptable to British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, President Woodrow Wilson and their colleagues. They recognized that the Jewish people’s right to self-determination was no less justified than that of the Arab people, who comprise Christians, Muslims, and Druze. [1]


“The Guardian of the Jews”

A Jewish State also means “Jewish security. Even in countries where he seems secure, he lacks the feeling of security. Why? Because even if he is safe, he has not physical provided safety for himself. Somebody else provides for his security. The State of Israel provides such security.” [2]

The late Ruth Gavison, professor of Human Rights at The Hebrew University, agreed that there is very real threat for Jews living outside of Israel that should not be underestimated, dismissed or ignored. “The existence of such a state is an important condition for the security of its Jewish citizens and the continuation of Jewish civilization…. Without a Jewish state, the Jews would revert to [being a] minority everywhere. And we know from history, the return of the Jews to minority status would likely mean the constant fear of a resurgence of anti-Semitism, persecution, and even genocide—as well as the need to dedicate ever more resources to staving off assimilation. I do not feel that I am being overly dramatic, then, if I say that forgoing a state is, for the Jewish people, akin to national suicide…The establishment of

Israel as a Jewish state was justified at the time of independence…, and its preservation continues to be justified today.” [3]

For Edmund Burke, the 18th century British philosopher and statesman, and many others, recognized the intolerable situation Jews faced in the absence of diplomatic and military means that would be naturally part of a sovereign Jewish state. In 1782, he argued in the British Parliament that the British and Dutch have their army, naval fleet, and foreign service to defend the citizens of their nation. But the Jews have no alternative. “Having no fixed settlement in any part of the world, no kingdom nor country in which they have a government, a community and a system of laws, they are they are thrown on the benevolence of nations…. If Dutchmen are injured and attacked, the Dutch have a nation, a government, and armies to redress or revenge their cause. IF Britons be injured, Britons have armies and laws, the law of nations… to fly to for protection and justice. But the Jews have no such power and no such friend to depend. Humanity, then, must become their protector and ally.” [4]

What about those who claim that Jews today are less in danger than in most areas of the world than they are in Israel, and that Israeli policies are a significant element that threatens Jews in the world? To these charges Gavison had four responses. “First, even if it is true that Jews in Israel are not safe, Jews in Israel do not depend for their safety and security on the goodwill of rulers and the societies hosting them. This is a critical element of what the Zionist revolution was all about. Second, the safety of Jews around the world may be related to the existence of Israel in complex ways. While debates and opposition to the policies of Israel may contribute to anti-Semitism, clearly anti-Semitism existed before Israel, and having a place of refuge and a state that may use diplomatic and other measures to defend Jews may be significant. Third, Zionism was also concerned with the quality of Jewish life permitted by life in the Diaspora. Israel is the only country in the world that gives Jews an opportunity to apply Judaism to the totality of their existence, including the political level. Finally, Israel is the only place in the world where a Jew can live in a public culture that is Jewish. Israel is the only place in the world where pressures to assimilate work toward Judaism rather than against it. For those who care about the continuation of Jewish identity and transmitting it, Israel provides the only place in which Jewish identity can flourish in the ways made possible by a Jewish public sphere.” [5]

Normal Laws of History

In a debate with British historian Arnold Toynbee former Israeli Ambassador Yaacov Herzog, asserted that the normal laws of history do not apply, “so long as the world agrees that there is something unique about the Jews in the history of mankind, it cannot deny the right of the Jews to this land.” [6]

The state is “a paradox,” he asserted. “All the normalities have been proved baseless.” The nation “lives by faith; however it is expressed, faith is a part of its foundation. It is a nation that lives in the present, but its rights go back to the past. And everything is integrated and intertwined in a process of redemption that…lies before us.” [7]

“More than any other people,” declared philosopher and political theorist Yoram Hazony, “the Jews have understood themselves as a historic nation—that is, as the bearer of an idea, as a people with a role to play in history. It was this commitment to an idea that was the true strength of the Jews and the secret that kept us alive in the bitter sea of exile, while so many nations around us vanished into the mists of history; it was th1is loyalty to the ideal of Israel and to the God of Israel that moved so many generations, including a great many Jews who did not understand this ideal or believe in this God, to suffer privation and death for their sake. In other words, what brought the Jews eternal life among the nations was not a preoccupation with survival, whether individual or collective, but rather the opposite. It was the willingness to give up one’s life for an idea, for a historic calling, that saved us.” [8]

Ben Gurion knew of “…no other people that was exiled from its land and dispersed among the nations of the world to be hated, persecuted, expelled and slaughtered…that did not vanish from history, did not despair or assimilate (though many individual Jews did), but yearned incessantly to return to its land, believing for two thousand years in its messianic deliverance—and that indeed did return and… renew its independence.” [9]

Israel’s right to exist is regularly denounced as an illegitimate. She is accused of being apartheid state that was conceived in sin. “Our existence does not depend on the willingness of the Palestinians to make peace with us. Our existence is secured by our right to live in this land and our capacity to defend that right,” observed Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu. [10]


[1] Allen Z. Hertz, “Aboriginal Rights to Israel,” JTA (April 23, 2009).

[2] The Jewish Case Before The Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine (Jerusalem: The Jewish Agency For Palestine, 1947), 68.

[3] Ruth Gavison, “The Jews’ Right To Statehood: A Defense, A new look at Zionism from the perspective of universal rights,” Azure Number 15 (Summer 2003); Ruth Gavison, “The National Rights of Jews,” in Israel’s Rights as a Nation-State in International Diplomacy, Alan Baker, Ed. (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs), 24.

[4] Yoram Hazony “The Guardian of the Jews,” in New Essays on Zionism, David Hazony, Yoram Hazony and Michael Oren, Eds. (Jerusalem: Shalem Press, 2006).

[5] Gavison, “The National Rights of Jews,”op.cit.15.

[6] Yaacov Herzog, A People That Dwells Alone (New York: Sanhedrin Press, 1975), 128-129.

[7] Ibid. 59.

[8] Yoram Hazony “The Guardian of the Jews” op.cit.

[9] David Ben Gurion, “Ben-Gurion and De Gaulle: An Exchange of Letters,” Midstream (February 1968),12.); Arthur H

[10] “Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s Knesset Speech – Commemorating November 29,” IMRA (December 6, 2007).

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Dr. Alex Grobman is the senior resident scholar at the John C. Danforth Society and a member of the Council of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. He has an MA and PhD in contemporary Jewish history from The Hebrew university of Jerusalem. He lives in Jerusalem.