A Century-Old Defense of Zionism in the American Press

One hundred years ago, the Zionist activist Harry Sachar wrote an essay titled “A Jewish Palestine,” which appeared in the July 1919 issue of the Atlantic Monthly. Writing less than two years after the Balfour Declaration, and a year before the League of Nations assigned the mandate for Palestine to Britain, Sachar made an impassioned plea for the creation of a Jewish homeland in the Land of Israel:

The Zionist movement is a longing and striving to restore to the Jewish people normal national life. . . . The Zionist movement will continue until the Jewish people are once more living a normal national life, when it will be transformed into the active expression of that normal national life.

There are some who deny that there is such a thing as the Jewish people, but the denial is a modern innovation. Very rare is the non-Jew who thinks of Jews as merely a sect without national quality; and it is doubtful whether among the Jews themselves there could be found a single instance of such a denial much earlier than the second decade of the 19th century.

Let us try to clear the ground by attempting not so much a definition as a characterization of Judaism. Judaism is not a religion in the Western sense of the word. Judaism is the precipitated spiritual experience of the Jewish people. The idea of Judaism is inseparable from the idea of the Jewish people, and the idea of the Jewish people is inseparable from the idea of the Jewish land. You may see this in every form and expression of Jewish religious life. Individual prayer, prayer for the individual Jew alone, is exceedingly rare. When the Jew prays, he prays not simply for himself, but for all Israel; and this national conception permeates prayer even in what might be considered to be the most personal and individual incidents of life: birth, marriage, death. The welding of the idea of the Jewish people with the idea of the Jewish land is manifest in every page of the Jewish liturgy.

What Jews are asking for is the right to make Palestine a Jewish country once again—Jewish in the sense that the majority of the people shall be Jews; Jewish in the sense that the predominant culture shall be Hebrew culture. For this purpose a mere bare permission to emigrate into the country will not suffice. He who wills the end must also will the means. The land must be made accessible to the Jews. At present, from 60 to 80 percent of the soil of Palestine is held in great estates, by absentee landowners, who rack-rent a miserable peasantry. The Jewish people had no intention of allowing their passion for the country, their enterprise, and their genius to be converted into unearned increment for the benefit of these absentee landlords. They are, however, anxious that the rights of the cultivating fellaheen [the Arab peasantry] shall be conserved, and there is plenty of room for the fellaheen and for the Jewish immigrants. Palestine today has not one tenth of the population it once had.

Read more at Atlantic

More about: Balfour Declaration, British Mandate, History of Zionism, Land of Israel

The ICJ’s Vice-President Explains What’s Wrong with Its Recent Ruling against Israel

It should be obvious to anyone with even rudimentary knowledge of the Gaza war that Israel is not committing genocide there, or anything even remotely akin to it. In response to such spurious accusations, it’s often best to focus on the mockery they make of international law itself, or on how Israel can most effectively combat them. Still, it is also worth stopping to consider the legal case on its own terms. No one has done this quite so effectively, to my knowledge, as the Ugandan jurist Julia Sebutinde, who is the vice-president of the ICJ and the only one of its judges to rule unequivocally in Israel’s favor both in this case and in the previous one where it found accusations of genocide “plausible.”

Sebutinde begins by questioning the appropriateness of the court ruling on this issue at all:

Once again, South Africa has invited the Court to micromanage the conduct of hostilities between Israel and Hamas. Such hostilities are exclusively governed by the laws of war (international humanitarian law) and international human-rights law, areas where the Court lacks jurisdiction in this case.

The Court should also avoid trying to enforce its own orders. . . . Is the Court going to reaffirm its earlier provisional measures every time a party runs to it with allegations of a breach of its provisional measures? I should think not.

Sebutinde also emphasizes the absurdity of hearing this case after Israel has taken “multiple concrete actions” to alleviate the suffering of Gazan civilians since the ICJ’s last ruling. In fact, she points out, “the evidence actually shows a gradual improvement in the humanitarian situation in Gaza since the Court’s order.” She brings much evidence in support of these points.

She concludes her dissent by highlighting the procedural irregularities of the case, including a complete failure to respect the basic rights of the accused:

I find it necessary to note my serious concerns regarding the manner in which South Africa’s request and incidental oral hearings were managed by the Court, resulting in Israel not having sufficient time to file its written observations on the request. In my view, the Court should have consented to Israel’s request to postpone the oral hearings to the following week to allow for Israel to have sufficient time to fully respond to South Africa’s request and engage counsel. Regrettably, as a result of the exceptionally abbreviated timeframe for the hearings, Israel could not be represented by its chosen counsel, who were unavailable on the dates scheduled by the Court.

It is also regrettable that Israel was required to respond to a question posed by a member of the Court over the Jewish Sabbath. The Court’s decisions in this respect bear upon the procedural equality between the parties and the good administration of justice by the Court.

Read more at International Court of Justice

More about: Gaza War 2023, ICC, International Law