Chaim Weizmann Combined Gifted Statesmanship with a Passionate Commitment to Jewish Particularism

April 17 2018

With Israeli independence day approaching, Gil Troy reflects on the life of the chemist and Zionist activist Chaim Weizmann, who was one of the architects of the Balfour Declaration, a crucial leader of the Zionist movement during the Mandate period, and eventually Israel’s first president. Troy notes, among other things, the great Jewish statesman’s understanding of Zionism itself:

The Jewish people have “never based the Zionist movement on Jewish suffering,” [Weizmann] would insist. “The foundation of Zionism was, and continues to be to this day, the yearning of the Jewish people for its homeland, for a national center, and a national life”—for normalcy!

Weizmann’s Zionism put him on the right side of the great 20th-century debate pitting liberal nationalism against totalitarian Communism. One of sixteen children—eleven [of whom] survived into adulthood—he and eight other siblings went Zionist, moved to Palestine, and thrived. Chaim’s brother Shmuel, who embraced Communist universalism, was executed in 1939, in Josef Stalin’s purges. His sister Maria was imprisoned thanks to Stalin’s paranoid, anti-Semitic Doctor’s Plot.

Taking this family argument to the world stage, when studying in Geneva, Weizmann debated the merits of nationalism versus universalism with some exiled Russian Communists, including Leon Trotsky and Vladimir Lenin. . . . [Living in Britain], when his local member of Parliament, Lord Arthur Balfour, wondered why the Jews wouldn’t establish a national homeland in Uganda instead of Palestine, Weizmann asked: “Mr. Balfour, suppose I were to offer you Paris instead of London, would you take it?” Balfour replied: “But Dr. Weizmann, we have London.” Weizmann responded: “True, but we had Jerusalem when London was a marsh.”

In the 1930s and 1940s, with Hitler’s rise to power and Britain’s ban on Jewish immigration to Palestine threatening any hope of a Jewish state, Weizmann found himself without a clear role to play, yet:

Weizmann sidelined was still an epoch-making statesman. He—and his extraordinary pediatrician wife Vera—were now living in the land of Israel, helping [to create] a state where one could be Chaim the scientist and the statesman, the humanist and the Jew, all at once. . . . Believing that science, technology, and education would serve as the new state’s national building blocks, Weizmann helped found the Technion, Hebrew University, and, in 1934, what is today the Weizmann Institute of Science, which recently ranked sixth in the Nature “index of innovation.”

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A University of Michigan Professor Exposes the Full Implications of Academic Boycotts of Israel

Sept. 26 2018

A few weeks ago, Professor John Cheney-Lippold of the University of Michigan told an undergraduate student he would write a letter of recommendation for her to participate in a study-abroad program. But upon examining her application more carefully and realizing that she wished to spend a semester in Israel, he sent her a polite email declining to follow through. His explanation: “many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel in support of Palestinians living in Palestine,” and “for reasons of these politics” he would no longer write the letter. Jonathan Marks comments:

We are routinely told . . . that boycott actions against Israel are “limited to institutions and their official representatives.” But Cheney-Lippold reminds us that the boycott, even if read in this narrow way, obligates professors to refuse to assist their own students when those students seek to participate in study-abroad programs in Israel. Dan Avnon, an Israeli academic, learned years ago that the same goes for Israel faculty members seeking to participate in exchange programs sponsored by Israeli universities. They, too, must be turned away regardless of their position on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. . . .

Cheney-Lippold, like other boycott defenders, points to the supposed 2005 “call of Palestinian civil society” to justify his singling out of Israel. “I support,” he says in comments to the [Michigan] student newspaper, “communities who organize themselves and ask for international support to achieve equal rights [and] freedom and to prevent violations of international law.”

Set aside the absurdity of this reasoning (“Why am I not boycotting China on behalf of Tibet? Because China has been much more effective in stifling civil society!”). Focus instead on what Cheney-Lippold could have found out by using Google. The first endorser of the call of “civil society” is the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine, which includes Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other groups that trade not only in violent “resistance” but in violence that directly targets noncombatants.

That’s remained par for the course for the boycott movement. In October 2015, in the midst of the series of stabbings deemed “the knife intifada,” the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel shared a call for an international day of solidarity with the “new generation of Palestinians” who were then “rising up against Israel’s brutal, decades-old system of occupation.” To be sure, they did not directly endorse attacks on civilians, but they did issue their statement of solidarity with “Palestinian popular resistance” one day after four attacks that left three Israelis—all civilians—dead.

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