Europe and the Jewish question

In the aftermath of WWII and the Holocaust, the most pressing social and political issue on the European continent was the future of the surviving Jews. Nowhere on the continent did it even seem remotely feasible that the remaining Jewish population could, in any way, shape or form, integrate into a post-war European society. No country would take in the Jews. With six million dead and missing, the traumatized remainder were still outcasts and strangers after nearly twelve hundred years of European residence. The answer to the Jewish question would not be happening in Europe. Only in the ancient homeland of the Jewish people, the Land of Israel, could the Jewish people find their rightful place in the world. And so the survivors of the European Holocaust clamored to leave Europe, en masse, to reclaim a minuscule strip of land (at that time, before the creation of the state) on the order of size approximating Liechtenstein.

But from 1945 to 1947, the British would not allow the Holocaust survivors entry into an internationally- mandated territory specifically designated by international law to be their future homeland. It was at this moment that the triumph of Zionism materialized across the full spectrum of Jewish social and political life. The answer for the Jewish future became a self-determined nationalism. Only a Jewish state could protect the Jewish people. The Holocaust had secularized the vast majority of Jews throughout the Yishuv community of Israel and the Diaspora. Assimilation and integration were deemed impossible given the events of 1933-1945. Even in the US, with its Bill of Rights, Jews felt discriminated against and uncomfortable. Of course, in the Middle East, Jews and Christians had always suffered a severe form of Islamic ostracism called Dhimmitude.

In 1948, the European enemies of the Jews had for the most part been silenced with the defeat of Nazi Germany and their many allies throughout the continent and in the Middle East. But although Soviet Russia had accepted the partition of the mandated territory into two states, one Jewish and the other Arab, had indeed recognized Israel dejure (by legal right) and had given the Jewish state military assistance when illegally attacked by an array of Arab armies, the international Communist movement eventually spurned Israel and the Zionist cause by deeming it to be a form of imperialism and Western colonial domination. The very roots of today’s European anti-Zionism are Marxist in orientation and specifically Soviet in antecedent form. At this point (around 1951), in Europe and the Middle East, anti-Semitism morphed into anti-Zionism. Anti-Semitism had directly claimed that Jews could not be trusted with European national citizenry and needed to be either expelled or exterminated. So when the Jews revolted and formed a nationalism of their own, the anti-Zionism of the authoritarian Left labeled it outlaw.

Today a majority of the democratic Left in Europe has accepted the framework of the original Soviet anti-Zionism premise. It’s not just about the settlements, because there is no document in international law which prohibits Jewish habitation on any of the territory from “the river to the sea”. The only reason Jews never settled the West Bank prior to 1948 was extreme Palestinian violence, period. This did not designate the land somehow Palestinian. Because in the period of the Yishuv, the land had been mandated by the League of Nations as a homeland for the Jews. In fact, in the aftermath of the 1948 War, Jordan illegally occupied the West Bank and provided citizenship to its Palestinian residents. If the Left had been consistent (which they were not), then Jordan should have been condemned throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s and a Palestinian state established on the West Bank. But the Left and the Palestinians didn’t want a state on the West Bank. They wanted all the territory, period.

Israel was not the aggressor in 1948, the Arabs and the Palestinians were. Even the Soviet Union agreed with this fact. Facts are facts, and the Left can’t have it both ways. Israel is a dejure reality under international law. The only document which would not allow for the settlement of Jews on the mandated territory would have been the original 1948 partition plan, which the Jews accepted and the Palestinians rejected, period. Since the Arab aggression of 1948 this document is now defunct. No country in the world would allow an aggressor the so-called “right” to repossess land from which it was attacked. If today’s Europeans believe that aggressors should be rewarded, then the territory that Russia captured from Germany (East Prussia on the Baltic) should be returned to the Germans. Why isn’t the European Left clamoring for the return of this “German land”. The simple answer is that Russia would laugh in their face. But when it comes to Israel, the Left believes that international law has been violated, and the whole Zionist project invalidated along with it.

Even on close examination, UN Security Council Resolution 242 had hypocritically rewarded Jordan for its 1948 illegal occupation (read Abba Eban’s autobiography). So, too, was Jordan’s 1967 illegal aggression against Israel rewarded by 242. 1967 was not about the Jewish settlements because there weren’t any settlements. 1967 was pure and simply about naked aggression. The Arabs wanted to throw the Jews and their Jewish state into the sea, period. In our era, so many people forget the simple truth of 1967. With the European Holocaust only twenty-two years in the past, the Arabs would solve the Jewish state question by a second attempt at annihilation. The Soviet Union provided the material aid, and the New Left in Europe and the US cheered them on. Their goal was the destruction of the State of Israel. For much of the European Left, the goal remains the same, period.

The settlements were a creation of the Zionist Labor Party. They were intended to be security facts on the ground. UN Security Council Resolution 242 spoke of a return of a non-specified amount of territory. It didn’t speak of a return of all the territory, and it never specified a return of the West Bank to the Palestinians. In fact, under international law, the Jews have a greater claim to the West Bank than either the Palestinians or the Jordanians. The League of Nation’s mandate holds at least as much sway as UN Resolution 242. Now, because Jordan refuses to negotiate, the 242 resolution has been bypassed (but not superseded) by the Oslo Accords. These accords never specified that the outcome of negotiations must be a Palestinian state. Rabin would never have signed on to that. On the contrary, Rabin thought in terms of a permanent Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley with an autonomous Palestinian zone confederated with Jordan.

However, before Oslo and up until the aftermath of Rabin’s assassination, no one in Israel (except the Communists and the extreme Left) talked about the West Bank being Palestinian territory. On the contrary, the Labor Party was against a PLO mini-state for the obvious reason that Arafat accepted the idea two decades before he even recognized the Israeli state (no Palestinian has ever recognized a Jewish state). UN Security Council Resolution 242 was falsely interpreted by the PLO to specifically give themselves total sovereignty over the disputed territory of the West Bank. The PLO had always been about the liberation of all the territory called Israel. But after three major wars of Arab aggression, they realized it couldn’t be done in one fell swoop. Once the idea of a phased struggle was accepted by their leadership (1974), the West Bank launching pad (toward both east and west) had become PLO strategy.

With the so-called breakthrough in 1993, the European Left altered its position to fit Arafat’s strategy as well. But the Palestinian acceptance of the Israeli state was not sincere. Arafat intended all along to include all the refugees from 1948, which would have made Israel, in reality, a bi-national state. That was the concept that Arafat had signed onto at Oslo and on the White House lawn, when he shook Rabin’s hand. The European Left had always called for the return of the refugees. Marxism and nationalism have always been at odds. But while so much of Communism has proven itself to be unworkable, nationalism and the nation-state (not bi-nationalism) have been durable.

The entirety of the European Left have been in lockstep with the PLO since 1974. This now includes not only the continent’s Social Democrats but Liberals and Christian Democrats as well. The West Bank state idea has been pushed by the European leadership almost as if Abbas and company hold seats in the European Parliament. But the PLO has divided on strategy and tactics. The Oslo phased-struggle model has become the minority view. The one-state solution (the bi-national state) has become the new dominant position. Arafat’s refusal to accept anything less than the complete return of the refugees (Camp David, 200) has achieved ascendancy on the Palestinian street. The BDS movement falls ambiguously somewhere between phased struggle and the bi-national state. The far Left has held to bi-nationalism, while elements of the Center and the Right have viewed an Israeli presence on the West Bank to be illegal. Slowly but surely, Israel has become squeezed into a delegitimized space that would either reward the aggressor his aggression (the 1967 truce lines) or call into question its very existence (the bi-national state).

Europe has always been an oppressor of the Jews. But the founding of the Jewish state had originally been cheered by the Europeans in order to relieve themselves of their enormous responsibility for the murder and genocide of so many millions. But after sixty-five short years, it is Israel that has now been accused of the “crime” of survival. Anti-Zionism has become the new anti-Semitism. So goes European history. In the new quasi-federal EU, nationalism has become politically incorrect. Zionism has been branded by the Left as a form of racism, while Arab domination of other nations and religions (the Kurds and the Copts) has been completely forgotten. Meanwhile, the Romani people continue to be exploited across the European continent, and Ireland has continued to be occupied by the UK. Spain, France and Russia also hold occupied territory. But the European obsession with the Jews has branded Israel with the “Crime of the Century”.

So what is the new European answer to the Jewish question? Spain wants us to return to Europe and quit Israel. How about this: we find a European job (good luck), join a far-Right or far-Left political party, bow to German economic power, maybe become an EU bureaucrat and live off the US taxpayers and their soldiers, and finally, while the euro collapses, watch and listen as all your neighbors blame the “greedy Jews” for their problems! No thanks — been there, done that, period.

About the Author
Steven Horowitz has been a farmer, journalist and teacher spanning the last 45 years. He resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. During the 1970's, he lived on kibbutz in Israel, where he worked as a shepherd and construction worker. In 1985, he was the winner of the Christian Science Monitor's Peace 2010 international essay contest. He was a contributing author to the book "How Peace came to the World" (MIT Press).
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