A great – but fragile – triumph of Zionism

The arrival of dozens of world leaders to Jerusalem to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day and commit to fighting anti-Semitism represents recognition of Zionism’s fundamental truth: The Land of Israel is the one and only, eternal homeland of the Jewish people.

by  Caroline B. Glick, ISRAEL HAYOM

What the foreign leaders who came to Jerusalem this week to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day and commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz will take home from their visits is unknowable. But we do know what they brought with them. Whether they intended to or not, the leaders who came this week to Israel’s capital to bow their heads in memory of the six million sons and daughters of Israel murdered in the Holocaust brought with them a recognition of Zionism’s foundational truth: The Land of Israel is the one and only, eternal homeland of the Jewish people.

In this sense, the event marks a triumph of Zionism over anti-Zionism.

This victory was never assured and there is no guarantee that this week’s achievement will endure.

Consider the achievement.

Modern Zionism – the movement to reconstitute the Jewish homeland in the land of Israel after nearly two thousand years of exile – provoked enormous opposition from the very start. Jewish nationalism flew in the face of the prevailing zeitgeist in elite Jewish and non-Jewish circles in the mid and late nineteenth century. That zeitgeist, conceived by Enlightenment philosophers and embraced by Reform Judaism asserted that the Jews were members of the Mosaic faith, not a nation. As such, they were free to assimilate – without their particular Jewish identity – into wider society.

The force of Reform Judaism’s rejection of Zionism in favor of universalism was undiminished by the Holocaust. It was undiminished by Israel’s establishment. It was given harsh expression in 1960.

As Daniel Gordis recounts in his book We Stand Divided: The Rift between American Jews and Israel, on May 23, 1960, then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion alighted the speaker’s podium at the Knesset and announced that Israeli security forces had captured Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann and brought him to Jerusalem to stand trial for his role in the genocide of European Jewry.

Israeli Jewry responded to the earth-shattering news with a sense that a great historical justice had been served. Eichmann’s capture was proof that the Jews were no longer homeless. By capturing Eichmann, Israel was taking responsibility for the Jewish people as a whole. They had a home. Those who harmed Jews anywhere in the world could henceforth expect to be held accountable by the Jews themselves, from their capital in Jerusalem.

The heads of the American Jewish community were not happy with this turn of events.

Joseph Proskauer, former president of the American Jewish Committee claimed Israel had no right to act in the name of the Jewish people. Rabbi Elmer Berger from the American Jewish Council said Israel’s capture of Eichmann was a “Zionist declaration of war” against the Jews in America.

Nahum Goldmann, the New York-based president of the World Zionist Organization suggested that foreign jurists should serve on the court tribunal. That is, he insinuated that Jews acting as Jews, (rather than Americans, or British), lacked the credibility to fairly judge the architect of the recent genocide of the Jewish people.

With the Six-Day War of 1967, Israeli Jews obliterated the stereotype of the Jew as a weak penitent. Israel’s triumph stirred Jewish pride and nationalism in Jewish hearts from the Soviet gulag to San Francisco. Following the war, the Reform movement formally embraced Zionism.

But the Reform Jews had been far from alone in embracing the anti-Zionist myth that rejected the fact that the Jews are a nation and that Israel is the Jewish homeland.

This position was happily embraced by Israel’s worst enemies – the Arab states, the Palestine Liberation Organization, (PLO), the Soviet Union, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Iranian regime, and Hamas. From the Arab League to the PLO charter to the Hamas covenant, to the KGB propaganda shop, all of them insisted that Zionism was a form of European colonialism. The Jews had no roots in Jerusalem or the land of Israel. Judaism was a mere religion. Jews were not a nation. Israel itself was nothing more than a sop for European guilt. It was a European colonial project created to cleanse the conscience of Europe in the wake of the Holocaust.

A decade ago, the anti-Zionist forces scored their greatest political victory. On June 4, 2009, the new American president Barack Obama delivered his “Address to the Muslim World,” at American University in Cairo. Before an audience that included a large contingent of Muslim Brotherhood members, specifically invited by the White House, Obama resonated their rejection of Jewish history and denial of the Jewish roots and rights to the Land of Israel.

In Cairo, Obama asserted that Israel’s establishment was a product of “a tragic history … Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust.”

Obama pointedly failed to utter a word about the nation of Israel’s historic ties to its homeland.

Instead, he announced that he would travel from Cairo to Buchenwald concentration camp. Jerusalem was not on his itinerary.

Obama’s speech was the single most hostile act any US leader ever took against the Jewish state. Speaking to a room full of Israel’s enemies, Obama resonated their lies and propaganda.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was reportedly stunned by the existential hostility towards Israel and the Jewish people Obama displayed at Cairo. But once he recognized the nature of the problem Netanyahu spent the next ten years insisting on the truth. Despite catcalls of criticism from the Israeli left, from liberal American Jews, from the EU, and from the Obama administration, Netanyahu and the governments he led insisted on telling the truth about Israel and Zionism over and over and over again and insisted that the truth be acknowledged. At every opportunity, Netanyahu stated and restated that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people and was never the capital of any other nation. He stated and repeated endlessly that Israel is the homeland and the nation-state of the Jewish people and was never the homeland or nation-state of any other people.

Over time, it made a difference.

The arrival of dozens of world leaders in Jerusalem to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day and commit themselves to fight anti-Semitism represents a spectacular reversal.

By coming to Jerusalem the visiting dignitaries embraced the truth at the heart of Zionism: Israel was not founded because of Auschwitz. It was founded because the Jews came home to live in their homeland as a free nation, finally.

Had the State of Israel existed in 1939, Auschwitz would never have been built.

Whether they realized it or not, these leaders’ presence in Jerusalem at a conference on Mt. Herzl dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism made clear that Israel is the best weapon against anti-Semitism. You don’t defeat anti-Semitism with hate speech laws, although judiciously written and applied laws can contribute to the effort. You defeat anti-Semitism by embracing Israel. The stronger, more secure and more peaceful Israel is, the safer Jews will be throughout the world.

This stunning statement – which the leaders made simply by congregating in Jerusalem – was a hundred years in the making. It didn’t happen by chance. It was the product of years of hard, thankless work. And if that work doesn’t continue apace into the future, the recognition will be fleeting.

Obama’s presidency facilitated the rise of anti-Zionist forces in the Democratic party and empowered anti-Zionists in the American Jewish community.

J Street was formed at the outset of the Obama presidency. By blaming Israel for the absence of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, it serves as an incubator for anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic Jewish groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow, which reject Israel’s right to exist. These groups, in turn, radicalize the Jewish establishment.

In 2018, almost all major American Jewish organizations condemned Israel for the Knesset’s passage of the Nation-State Law. The law which enjoys massive public support in Israel gives constitutional weight to Israel’s identity as the nation-state of the Jewish people. The opposition of groups like the Jewish Federations of North America for a law that does no more than restate the obvious is a clear sign of that American Jewish Zionism is fraying.

Then there is the so-called “international community.”

During their visits this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron and Prince Charles all divided their time between commemorating the Holocaust and pledging to fight anti-Semitism in Jerusalem on the one hand, and traveling to Ramallah to meet with Mahmoud Abbas, a Holocaust-denying anti-Semite on the other.

The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor’s recommendation to try Israeli leaders and soldiers for imaginary war crimes represents an attempt by the so-called international community to criminalize Israel’s very existence.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s made-for-TV abuse of Israeli forces charged with protecting him Wednesday in the Old City is proof that for the nations of Europe, anti-Semitism remains a powerful political weapon.

To secure what has been painstakingly accomplished, we need to commit ourselves to keep our guard up. We must continue to tell the truth and call out the lies of the anti-Semites. The Jewish people are a nation. Israel is our state. Had Israel existed in 1939, as the Zionists and the doomed Jews of Europe had hoped, there never would have been a Holocaust.

To prevent a new Holocaust in a world still drenched in Jew-hatred, the reconstituted Jewish state must be defended. Israeli leaders and citizens and supporters of Israel worldwide must stand up to liars and deceivers who create convenient myths about Jewish identity that conform to their prejudices and lifestyle choices. If we do these things, this week’s events will pave the way to more triumphs.

If we fail to do these things, if we take this week’s events for granted, then ten years hence, we will not remember the conference at Yad Vashem as the moment that rendered Obama’s anti-Semitic screed in Cairo an insignificant historical footnote. Instead, we will view his speech as a turning point, and this week’s conference as an insignificant blip on the screen of history.

January 25, 2020 | 2 Comments » | 434 views

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  1. From Times of Israel:

    Emirati, Bahraini FMs speak out against racism ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day
    In separate tweets, Arab officials say such crimes against humanity should never be repeated

    By TOI staff25 January 2020, 6:01 pm
    Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan smiles during a news conference at the United Arab Emirates’ Foreign Ministry with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, July 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)
    The Emirati and Bahraini foreign ministers on Saturday issued separate tweets taking a stand against racism and hatred in recognition of International Holocaust Memorial Day, which falls on Monday.

    “While we remember Holocaust Memorial Day, we stand on the side of humanity against racism, hatred and extremism,” Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan wrote on Twitter. “And together we remember the lives taken so that such crimes against humanity will not repeat themselves.”

    Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa wrote in Arabic that on the eve of the memorial day: “We stand with humanity in its rejection of racism, hatred and extremism. Together, we remember the lives that were lost so that these crimes against humanity would not be repeated.”

    Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Edition by email and never miss our top stories Free Sign Up

    In December, Al Nahyan tweeted a link to a story in the UK’s Spectator, titled: “Islam’s reformation: an Arab-Israeli alliance is taking shape in the Middle East.”

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to that tweet, writing in English and Arabic: “I welcome the closer relations between Israel and many Arab states. The time has come for normalization and peace.”

    The story covered the changing geopolitical landscape in the Middle East, and the realization of many Arab figures that Israel could be an important ally against Islamism and Iran’s expansionism in the region, as well as a potential partner for trade and security.

    Al Nahyan was seen in a conference clip last year defending Israel’s right to attack Iranian targets in Syria in order to prevent the Islamic Republic from entrenching itself along the border.

    In July, Al Khalifa had said that if it were not for Iran’s support of Hamas and other armed groups in the Gaza Strip, Israel and the Palestinians would be closer to peace.

    Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa speaks with the Times of Israel on the sidelines of the Peace to Prosperity workshop in Manama, Bahrain, on June 26, 2019. (Courtesy)
    “If it wasn’t for Iran being present — Iranian soldiers, Iranian money, Iranian support for Hamas and jihadis that take control of Gaza — we would have been much closer to achieving a better peace between the Palestinians and Israelis and we would have a better chance,” he said at an event in Washington.

    Israel has seen slowly warming ties with Sunni Arab states in recent years, and Jerusalem is said to have developed clandestine ties with numerous Arab countries in recent years over the countries’ shared antipathy toward Iran and the need to counter jihadism.

    Arab leaders, however, have also indicated that true normalization can not take place so long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not resolved.

    On Thursday, Muslim religious leaders joined members of a US Jewish group at Auschwitz for what organizers called “the most senior Islamic leadership delegation” to visit the death camp.

    The secretary-general of the Muslim World League, Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed al-Issa, headed the delegation.

    Interfaith delegation to Auschwitz including Muslim World League head Mohammed al-Issa, January 23, 2020. (Yaakov Schwartz/ Times of Israel)
    This year’s memorial day marks the 75th anniversary of the camp’s liberation by Soviet forces at the close of World War II.

    World leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Britain’s Prince Charles, gathered in Jerusalem this week for the fifth annual World Holocaust Forum.

    Political feuds ahead of anniversary

    On Monday, elderly Holocaust survivors and world dignitaries will gather at Auschwitz to mark the anniversary.

    Bitter political feuds loom over the memorial ceremony at the site of the former camp in Oswiecim, southern Poland, that will be attended by royals, presidents and prime ministers from nearly 60 countries, but no top world leaders.

    Last month, Putin sparked outrage in the West after making the false claim that Poland had colluded with Nazi German dictator Adolf Hitler and contributed to the outbreak of World War II.

    In fact, the war erupted after Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union invaded and carved up Poland in September 1939 under a secret clause of their Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

    Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, who has called out Putin for attempting to rewrite history, snubbed the forum in Jerusalem after he was denied the opportunity to speak there.

    He will make an address on Monday in Auschwitz where survivors are to take center-stage at ceremonies honoring the six million European Jews killed in the Holocaust.

    Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest of all Nazi Germany’s death and concentration camps and the camp where most people were killed. And it is the only one to have been preserved as it was when it was abandoned by the Germans fleeing the advancing Red Army.

    Operated by the Nazis from 1940 until 1945, Auschwitz was part of a vast and brutal network of death and concentration camps across Europe set up as part of Hitler’s “Final Solution” of genocide against an estimated 10 million European Jews.

    Once Europe’s Jewish heartland, Poland saw 90 percent of its 3.3 million pre-war Jewish citizens killed under Nazi German occupation between 1939 and 1945.

    AFP contributed to this report

    I think the attendance of Saudi representives and Muslim preachers (with considerable overlap between the two) is an encouraging sign. The World Muslim League, which used to be the main purveyor of antisemitism throughout the entire world, subsidized by the Saudi government, has now, under the leadership of the much-maligned MBS, changed its tune and expressed cautious sympathy for Israel. The sympathy of the Emirati and Bahraini foreign ministers for Israel and Jews, and their acknowledgment of the Holocaust, is also encouraging.

    Bahrain has had low-level (consular) diplomatic relations with Israel for years. Recently, the Israeli and Bahraini foreign ministers had a publicly acknowledged meeting, I think in Washington, and posed for a photo-op afterwards. A positive development for Israel.

    Despite Charles’ subsequent visit to Abbas, his attending the Holocaust Memorial as an official British representative, and his public handshakes with Israeli leaders there, was an indication of a thaw in Anglo-Israel relations under Boris Johnson.

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