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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The U.S. Should Recognize Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan Heights

July 19 2018

Since the 1970s, American governments have sporadically pressured Jerusalem to negotiate the return of the Golan to Syria in exchange for peace. Had Israel given up this territory, Iranian forces would now be preparing to establish themselves on its strategically advantageous high ground. Michael Doran, testifying before the House of Representatives, argues that for this and other reasons, Congress should recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. (Video is available at the link below.)

Between 1949 and 1967, [the period during which Syria held the Golan], thousands of clashes erupted [there]. By contrast, ever since Israel took control of the Golan Heights in June 1967, they have served as a natural buffer between the two belligerents. The last 70 years serve as a laboratory of real life, and the results [of the experiment conducted therein] are incontrovertible: when in the hands of Syria, the Golan Heights promoted conflict. When in the hands of Israel, they have promoted stability. . . .

From the outbreak of the [Syrian] civil war, Iran and Russia have worked aggressively to shape the conflict so as to serve their interests. The influence of Iran is particularly worrisome because, in the division of labor between Moscow and Tehran, Russia provides the air power while Iran provides much of the ground forces. . . . Thanks to Iran’s newfound ground presence [in Syria], it is well on the way to completing a so-called “land bridge” stretching from Tehran to Beirut. There can be no doubt that a major aim of the land bridge is to increase the military pressure on Israel (and Jordan, too). . . .

Would Americans ever consciously choose to place Iranian soldiers on the Golan Heights, so that they could peer down their riflescopes at Jewish civilians below? Is there any American interest that would be served by allowing Iran to have direct access to the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s primary water reservoir? Would it ever be wise to place Iranian troops [where they could] serve as a wedge between Jordan and Israel? The answer to all of these questions, obviously, is no. And the clearest way to send that message to the world is to pass a law recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

As for the claim that the Jewish state’s seizure of the Golan in 1967 violates international law, Doran notes that Washington undermined this claim with its attempts in the 1990s to broker a deal between Jerusalem and Damascus:

The ready American (and Israeli) acceptance of the June 4, 1967 cease-fire line [as the basis for such a deal] is nothing short of startling. That line . . . leaves Syria in possession of territory along the shores of the Sea of Galilee and elsewhere that it acquired by force in 1948. In other words, to win over its enemy, [Syria], the Clinton administration dispensed with the principle of the impermissibility of the acquisition of territory by force—the very principle that the United States has remained ever-vigilant in applying to its ally, Israel.

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More about: Congress, Golan Heights, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy