Derek Penslar ─ Declarations of (In)dependence: Dialectics of Zionist Statecraft, 1896-1948


OK, good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for coming. Sorry that we’re a bit late,
but we were also in a class and then came right here. So welcome to another
of our lectures in the Israel Palestine
distinguished lecture series. Today it’s my distinct honor to
present to you professor Derek Penslar, who is a Professor
of History at Harvard and is assuming the William
Lee Frost chair in Modern Jewish History at Harvard. He taught in the past,
or quite recently, at Oxford, Toronto, and
Indiana Universities. He has published numerous
volumes in Jewish history, and I’ll just cite a few
of the titles of his works. These include Zionism
and Technocracy– the Engineering of Jewish
Settlements in Palestine 1870-1918, published in 1991– In Search of Jewish Community– Jewish Identities in Germany
and Austria, 1960-1933– Shylock’s Children– Economics
and Jewish Identity in Modern Europe– Orientalism and the Jews, which
he co-edited with Ivan Kalmar, Israel in History– the Origins of the
State of Israel– and Jews and the
Military– a History. So you could see a
vast range of topics that have to do with Zionism and
Jewish history in a wide scope. Today, he will speak
to us on an emerging project that he’s now writing
as he told us over lunch– Declarations of
Independence– Dialectics of Zionist Statecraft,
1896 to 1948. Please help me welcome
Professor Penslar. Thank you. So– oh! Will I be able to see my notes? Is there anything I can put
them on or– does this go up? You need something– Oh, because of my
terrible vision, I just– so I printed
it out in 16 point. Is there maybe a
big, thick book? Or does this go up? This doesn’t go up, doesn’t it? I mean, I can always hold the– all right. It would have to
be, unfortunately a few feet of big books. [INAUDIBLE] any more books? Look at that. We have quite a few books. That’ll help. How’s that? Yeah, I’ll try,
see what happens. It’s going to be a stretch. What do people do who
don’t have bad eyes? Do they really have the text
all the way down there and– You can have that. Yeah, I’ll see what happens. Try it with my bag. Yeah, maybe the bag first. Like this? See what happens. No, this is going to fall. No, I don’t think so. How’s that? Try that. I think so. There you go. It works. OK, let’s hear it for what they
call in Hebrew [NON-ENGLISH],, which means improvisation. OK, well, thank
you, [INAUDIBLE],, very much for the introduction. Again, thank you
for the invitation. I’ve had a delightful day
here so far meeting so many of the students and
faculty members. It’s been really a pleasure. What I’m going to
do is share with you a kind of a shortened
form of an article that’s being published– where we now, April? So it’s going to be published
in a couple of months. Oh, a rubbish bin– how lovely. Empty. Recycling, recycling. I’ll take my bag. That’s perfect. That’s a metaphor. That’s– Sorry. That’s lovely. This is perfect. Recycling is even a more
disturbing academic metaphor than rubbish. All right, so this is a
shortened version of an article that I’m publishing in a journal
the next six to eight weeks. And although it’s not exactly
on target for my next project, it grows out of my
new project, which is a study of emotions in
the history of Zionism. It’s a book called Zionism,
an Emotional State. And you’ll see how some
of the emotions that are at play in this article
relate to that broader theme, although the theme
of this article is actually much more
political than it is cultural. So I’m going to analyze the
relationship between dependence and independence in
four foundational texts in the history of Zionism– Theodor Herzl’s “The
Jewish State” of 1896, “The Balfour
Declaration” of 1917, “The Biltmore Program,” of
1942, and “The Declaration of the Establishment of the
State of Israel” in 1948. These documents differ greatly
in authorship, structure, and audience. But taken together,
they illustrate the Zionist project’s
convergence with, but also divergence from,
anti-colonial projects and post-colonial states in the
first half of the 20th century. Both the political program
that Herzl sketched out in the Jewish state and
Chaim Weizmann’s lobbying of the British government
during World War I depended upon the good graces
of Europe’s colonial powers. After the war, jubilation
among Jews about “The Balfour Declaration” was accompanied
by displays of gratitude. Key in our talk is the
emotion of gratitude, which is associated with
conditions of dependence. If you’re grateful
to someone, you’re in a dependency
relationship with them. Like anti-colonialism
in India, Zionism was cautious about demanding
outright independence, although the Zionists’
dependence upon Britain was far greater
given their status as a minority of
Palestine’s population and facing a hostile
Arab majority. When the Zionists did demand
independence in “The Biltmore Program,” they also acknowledged
their ongoing dependence upon Britain, which
they called upon to fulfill its mandatory
responsibilities. In 1948, the Zionists did
not separate from Britain so much as Britain
separated from Palestine. The Palestine War that
year was a struggle between Israel and Arabs, not
between Israel and Britain. Accordingly, the state’s
founding declaration was an assertion of creation
and not separation– of sovereignty, not
independence from another power. Nonetheless, the document
reflected dependence upon the international community
that it approved Palestine’s partition in November of 1947. So in one paragraph, that’s the
entire argument of the paper. The rest is commentary. So we begin with
Herzl, with whom I’ve lived for far too long. The book I’ve been
working on about him will hopefully be
finished this summer. The Zionist organization’s
Basel program adopted at the first
Zionist Congress was highly ambiguous
about the precise form that a Jewish
polity would assume. The program [? ran, ?]
“Zionism aims at establishing for
the Jewish people a publicly and legally
assured home in Eretz, Israel. That ambiguity reflected
differences of opinion between so-called political
and practical Zionists, between those who demanded
Jewish sovereignty and those who preferred for tactical or
for principled reasons to focus on Jewish economic and social
development within Ottoman Palestine without clear plans
for the political future of Palestine’s Jewish
community known in Hebrew as the [NON-ENGLISH]. But there was more to the
Basel program’s ambiguity, for it characterized that
thinking and stratagems of the Zionist organization’s
founder Theodor Herzl. In 1896, the year before
the first Zionist Congress and the promulgation
of the Basel program, Herzl published his celebrated
pamphlet [NON-ENGLISH],, usually translated as
“The Jewish State.” The pamphlet proposed
the formation of what he called a
society of Jews that would be a state-creating power. “The society of
Jews,” he rights, “will treat with the
present masters of the land, putting itself under
the protectorate of the European powers if they
prove friendly to the plan.” Now this is interesting because
the current masters of the land are the Ottoman Empire. But then he says placing
itself under the protection or the protectorate
of the European powers if they prove friendly. Now what does Herzl
mean by protectorate? He employs the German
word [NON-ENGLISH],, not [NON-ENGLISH],, the term
employed in the German empire to describe its colonial
possessions in Africa. He does not appear
to have in mind a protectorate in the
conventional sense of the word– that is, an entity with a high
level of internal autonomy but whose external affairs
are under the control of a foreign state. Rather, Herzl goes on to write,
“we should, as a neutral state, remain in contact
with all of Europe, which would have to
guarantee our existence.” In other words, [NON-ENGLISH]
simply means protection in the form of a collective
European security guarantee. Moreover, when Herzl describes
the financial instrument of the Zionist project,
known as the Jewish company, as quote, “under the protection
of England,” close quote, he means that it will be a
joint stock company registered in London and protected by
the fairness and global reach of British commercial law. The society of Jews
and the Jewish Company would be autonomous
entities, but they would depend upon the
goodwill of Christians to buy the property of
aspiring Jewish immigrants at a fair price. To quote Herzl,
“honest anti-Semites, whilst preserving
their independence, will combine with our
officials in controlling the transfer of our estates. Anti-Semites would even buy
shares in the Jewish company. The Zionists would repay
their kindness,” says Herzl, by giving, quote, “every
assistance to governments and parliaments in
their efforts to direct the inner migration
of Christian citizens to formerly Jewish properties.” Herzl was deeply concerned
about the reputation and honor of Europe’s Jews, leading
him to write that, quote, “every obligation
in the old country must be scrupulously
fulfilled before leaving. Every just private claim
originating in the abandoned countries will be
heard more readily in the Jewish state
than anywhere else. We shall not wait
for reciprocity. We shall act purely for
the sake of our own honor.” This pamphlet brims with
psychological dependence on Gentile opinion
of the Jews that matches political
dependence upon the international community
to guarantee the state’s existence. The final sentence
of Herzl’s pamphlet declaims that unlike the
consequences of previous waves of Jewish emigration,
Jewish money will no longer flee abroad with its owners. Instead, it will flow back
to the Jews’ former homelands for the benefit of their
erstwhile neighbors. And in one of the pamphlets
was famous passages, Herzl foresees the
protection of the holy sites by, quote, “assigning to them
an extraterritorial statutes such as is well-known
in the law of nations. We shall form a guard of
honor about these sanctuaries, answering for the fulfillment of
this duty with our existence.” The Jews will guard the
Church of the Holy Sepulcher. He’s not really thinking of the
Dome of the Rock or the Al-Aqsa Mosque. He’s thinking of the Church
of the Holy Sepulcher and that the Jews will guard
these Christian holy sites with their very lives
to protect their honor. “A vision of a
neutral Jewish state guaranteed by the European
powers, a vision that is conditional upon their
interest and their agreement, if they prove friendly
to the plan,” he writes. This conditional
clause testifies to flexibility and opportunism
inherent in Herzl’s diplomatic activity. In the years following the
publication of [NON-ENGLISH],, Herzl pursued multiple
and mutually contradictory diplomatic initiatives. Negotiating with the
Ottoman government, he avowed that an imperial
charter allowing Jews to settle Palestine would
help the empire maintain its independence and integrity. In a 1902 draft charter for
a colonization company that would operate in Ottoman
Palestine and surrounding lands, Herzl
presented the Zionists as loyal subjects of
the Ottoman sultan. The document stressed
the Jews’ willingness to perform military service– this at a time when
the empire did not even have universal conscription. Herzl never ceased,
however, at the same time that he was courting
the Ottoman Empire, courting the European
powers, particularly Britain and Germany,
one of which he hoped would reclaim a protectorate–
a protectorate, not the protection– over Palestine
or some other territory on behalf of the Jews. Is there anybody here
from Southern California by any chance? Nobody is here from
Southern California? One person. You know about the
meaning of 90210? I really am out of my element. No one knows 90210? What is it? Zip code for LA. Beverly Hills, that’s right. And the most important
thing, if you’re growing up in Los Angeles and
you can’t afford to live in Beverly
Hills, is you live in what’s called Beverly
Hills adjacent, OK? You have a prestigious
[NON-ENGLISH] or prestigious zip code that’s similar
to Beverly Hills. So in the case of Herzl, he
was hoping for a Jewish state, if not in Palestine,
Palestine adjacent– something nearby. Now Herzl was a
native of Hungary, a country that under the terms
of the 1967 [NON-ENGLISH],, or compromise, with Austria
enjoyed near-total autonomy but not sovereignty. He was thus intimately
familiar with the preservation of loyalty to a non-native
dynasty within a highly nationalistic society. At the [NON-ENGLISH],, such
phenomena existed far beyond Europe. In 1895, a Taiwanese
Republic was proclaimed follow the Sino-Japanese war,
and the Republic’s president, Tang Jingsong,
proclaimed himself to be a loyal servant
of the Qing Emperor. Herzl never explicitly invoked
Austria-Hungary or China or joint or sub-sovereignty,
but he was effusive in protestations of loyalty
and benevolence to the Jewish state’s future [NON-ENGLISH]. As Herzl said at the beginning
of the second Zionist Congress in 1898, quote, “if
there is such a thing as a legitimate claim to any
piece of the earth’s surface, then all the peoples of the
earth who believe in the Bible must recognize the
rights of the Jews. And they can do so
without envy or concern, for the Jews are not
a political power, and they never
will be one again.” Fascinating– the author of
[NON-ENGLISH] says the Jews are not a political power and
never will be one again. Herzl’s pamphlet bore the
title “The Jewish State,” but he was vague, unsure,
flexible about the form that the polity would take– sovereign state, a
vassal, or a satrapy or an autonomous region. As Herzl said in a debate
in Berlin in 1898, “well, what is a state? A big colony. What is a colony? A small state.” In this deeply
apologetic approach, Herzlian Zionism represented
a continuation and not a rejection of what modern
Jewish historians have called a enlightenment theory
of political passivity– that is, a historic Jewish
dependence upon the state. Herzl continued in the spirit
of the radical German-Jewish reformer David Friedlander, who
in 1787, more than a century before Herzl, wrote
of the Jews as, quote, “a dislocated but not
useless limb in the state machine. With childlike longing, we await
the moment of mobilization.” You see, the invocation
of Jewish financial power, which Herzl claimed would
be sufficient to restructure the Ottoman Empire’s
vast sovereign debt, was also an assertion of
utility and a yearning to be mobilized in the
service of the great powers. A similar mixture of
empowerment and dependence characterized contacts between
Zionists and British government officials leading up to the
promulgation of the Balfour Declaration as well as
Zionist representations of it in the following years. So we’ve laid out the
framework with Herzl– independence which really
is all about dependence upon the great powers. Let’s see how this
plays out as we move to Chaim Weizmann, the
Zionist leader most responsible for negotiating the declaration. Weizmann gained access to
the British governing elites in part owing to his
pre-war chemical experiments on the fermentation of grain
sugars, which he intensified during the war in order
to synthesize acetone, an ingredient in
smokeless gunpowder. Now these genuine scientific
accomplishments quickly took on the qualities
of legend among Jews throughout the world. According to a Chicago
Jewish newspaper a fortnight after the issuance
of the declaration, quote, “as a chemist, Weizmann
is the inventor of a high explosive now
in use by British forces on the Western Front. He declined to take any
reward for his contribution to the success of the
war, asking in exchange, nothing more, than that the
British government should listen to the appeal
of the Zionists and approve their ambitions.” Now aside from
the exaggeration– Weizmann did not
invent the explosive. He amplified the availability
of one of its components. We have a folktale
narrative of a loyal servant of the crown who
wins royal favor for extraordinary service,
thereby gaining privileges for his people. The story hearkens to biblical
stories of Joseph or Mordecai in the books of Genesis
and Esther respectively, Sephardic courtiers in medieval
Spain, or early modern court Jews whose wealth brought
residents privileges for entire communities
or Jews thought to be masters of esoteric
knowledge in early modern Europe, alchemists
depicted brilliantly by Daniel Jutte
in his recent book on the relationship between
Jews, royal secrecy, and alchemical science. Weizmann was a master of the
pre-modern Jewish vertical alliance, a political
strategy whereby Jews sought the protection
of the King or emperor rather than local lords. As historian Yosef Hayim
Yerushalmi has brilliantly observed, Jews represented
themselves as servants of kings rather than mere
servants of men. Weizmann may have been
adored by his following, but in his negotiations
with the British government, he was a supplicant
before a monarch. Weizmann would, in years,
to come refer to himself as a beggar and a [NON-ENGLISH],,
which is Yiddish for beggar, so it’s a tautological
statement, but anyway, a beggar and [NON-ENGLISH]
in the service of the Zionist movement. This operational dialectic
between subordination and sovereignty, reliance
and self-reliance, within the
negotiations leading up to the issuing of
the declaration became a discursive
dialectic as the declaration was publicly celebrated at the
end of 1917 and afterwards. Gratitude was commonly
invoked by Zionists to describe Jews’
feelings towards Britain. On December 16,
1917, a joint meeting of American and
Canadian Zionists passed, quote, “appropriate
resolutions of gratitude” for the declaration. In December of 1918, a Spanish
Zionist convention in Madrid resolved to send a note of
congratulations and gratitude to the British ambassador. This rhetoric
continued over time with the League of Nations award
of the mandate over Palestine to Britain in 1920
and the appointment of Herbert Samuel as the first
High Commissioner to Palestine. Gratitude was a response to
a gift or an act of charity– sorry, gratitude was
not a response merely to a gift or act of
charity but rather to the legitimization of
the Zionist project itself. So at the 1921 convention of
the Canadian Zionist federation, a resolution acknowledged,
quote, “the deepest gratitude and indebtedness of
the Jewish people to the British government
for this declaration written into the public law of
nations which recognizes the right of the Jewish
people to a home in Palestine and which is to make
possible the establishment of a Jewish homeland.” More boldly, in
American fashion, in 1927, the Los Angeles
Binet B’rith Messenger described the declaration
as the first recognition by a modern nation
of the Jewish claim to Palestine as a
national homeland. These statements
then are complicated they invoke both an inalienable
right but also dependence on a great power to
recognize that right and make possible its exercise. In the United States, Jewish
reactions to the declaration were varied. Yiddish-speaking socialists and
highly acculturated reform Jews both expressed
misgivings, the former out of distaste for imperialism and
the latter out of discomfort with distinct
Jewish nationalism. In Canada, however, the
rhetoric of Jewish gratitude for the declaration
was ubiquitous. Unlike Jews in Eastern Europe,
where masses of Orthodox Jews viewed Zionism with
skepticism or suspicion, if not outright hostility,
or in Western Europe, where assimilationists were no
less hostile to Zionism, or the United States, where
both radical and assimilationist ideologies limited Zionism’s
appeal, Jews in Canada came of age in a
bi-national society where minorities faced
little resistance to the performance
of ethnic solidarity and the establishment of
unifying national institutions. What’s more, as an outpost
of the British Empire, Zionism could be presented, in
the words of Archie Freeman, the Zionist organization
of Canada present in 1924, quote, “a joint enterprise
between the British people and the Jewish people.” There’s an interesting
visual representation of Canadian Jewish gratitude. In Toronto, my
adopted home city, the Shiffer-Hillman
Clothing Company commissioned architect
Benjamin Brown to design a regal
art deco structure whose drawings
from the very start bore the name Balfour Building. It was opened to
great fanfare in 1930. In another act of
commemorative naming, during the Second World War at a
time when restrictive covenants prevented Jews from purchasing
desirable lake shore cottage properties north of
Toronto, the Zionist activists Rose Dunkleman, mother of
the Major Benjamin Dunkleman from the 7th brigade in
the 1948 war– anyway, the Zionist activist
Rose Dunkleman arranged through a third party
to purchase lakeshore land for the establishment
of a Jewish cottage community opened in 1942
and named Balfour Beach. I know of no other
examples, by the way, of this kind of
commemorative naming. There is a Balfour
institution in Vancouver, but it’s simply named after
Balfour as foreign minister. It has nothing to do with Jews. And It really
tells you something about the difference between
Canadian and American Jewry. This complex and
ambiguous relationship between gratitude and
dependence on one hand and pride and
independence on the other is even more illustrated
by the practices of likening the Balfour
Declaration to Magna Carta. On the occasion of the
Declaration’s fifth anniversary, the chairman of
Keren ha-Yesod in the United States, Charles Untermeyer,
said the declaration, like the mandate, followed
as the new Magna Charta, C-H-A-R-T-A, of the Jewish
people the world over. Under the beneficent
protection of the mandate, the Jews will be able to
return to their native land and pursue their vocations
in peace and prosperity. Both Nahum Sokolow and Chaim
Weizmann invoked the simile. And in his testimony before
the Peel Commission in November of 1936, Weizmann
vowed that he could submit to the commission– I’m quoting from Weizmann– “a series of utterances of
responsible statesmen and men in every walk of life
in England to show that this declaration
was regarded as the Magna Carta of the Jewish people.” It was, in a sense, comparable
with yet another declaration made thousands of
years before, when Cyrus allowed a remnant of the
Jews to return from Babylon and to rebuild their temple. By the way,
sympathetic Christians also made this analogy between
the Balfour Declaration and Magna Carta. Now these invocations are
quite striking when you think of what Magna Carta was. Magna Carta was a concession
of aristocratic privilege by an unpopular King to
his rebellious barons. Now it’s true that at the
time Weizmann was writing, the charter was also
widely interpreted as adumbrating modern
notions of individual right. Nonetheless, even this more
generous interpretation of Magna Carta presents it
as a royal charter bestowed from on high as opposed
to a declaration drafted by a popularly elected body. Weizmann’s explicit comparison
of the Balfour Declaration with not only Magna
Carta but also Cyrus’ edict
strengthens the notion that the Jews have long
depended upon the beneficence of imperial power. Zionists were not the only
stateless or colonized people to invoke Magna Carta. In the late 19th and
early 20th centuries, Indian and South African
activists did the same. But they did not do so
to display gratitude to a great power
for acknowledging their historic rights– rather, to juxtapose current
British discrimination against what they
believed to be older, binding proclamations
of equality and promises of protection by
Britain to its colonies. At the end of World War
I, anti-colonial leaders in countries such as India,
Egypt, China, and Korea looked to the
international community to recognize their rights
to self-determination. They neither wanted,
nor needed a protector. In December of 1918, a statement
by the American Jewish Congress breathes the spirit of this era
which my Harvard colleague Erez Manela has called
its Wilsonian moment. So I’m quoting from the
American Jewish Congress. “President Wilson has
broken all precedents and has sailed for Europe–”
so he’s off to Paris for the peace conference– “presumably to impress
upon European leaders that America will no longer
hold aloof from the old world but, by force of
change conditions, is now one of them.” They weren’t quite
right about that. “President Wilson’s
voyage to France symbolizes the new position of
America in the world’s affairs. Neutral nations need not tremble
for the freedom of the seas, for the seas will now
be as free as the air.” Moving from support for
the League of Nations to the Zionist cause,
this declaration from the American
Jewish Congress urges that Jews must have
complete and unhampered independence in their own land. How do they justify this claim? It’s a moral claim. Quote, “the Jews do not go to
Palestine to build warships, train armies, found
arsenals, invent devilish and murderous
machines, but to dwell in peace and cultivate the graces and
the learning of civilization. Their continued peaceful
existence in their homeland will depend upon the
peace of the world.” So it sounds as if the Zionists
are trying to be of a piece with this Wilsonian moment,
an anti-colonial moment. But there’s a problem. Despite these lofty
sentiments, Zionist found themselves in a
fundamentally different position from the
colonized world. Movements for independence
in the Arab Middle East saw the mandates for
Mesopotamia, Syria, and Palestine as an assault
against their autonomy and collective rights, even if
these mandates were allegedly supposed to guide them
to self-government. The Zionists, on the other hand,
were completely dependent upon imperial protection,
without which the fledgling [NON-ENGLISH] could not
survive, let alone thrive. Only with British help
could the Zionists attain their goal, which in the
immediate aftermath of the war was clearly one of statehood. Now it was uncommon
for mainstream Zionists to use language as bald as
that of the Chicago Jewish Sentinel’s front page November
23, 1917, which declared, “the British
government has promised to further the establishment of
a Jewish state in Palestine.” Taking a different tack,
after a meeting in Whitechapel in December 1918, Weizmann
spoke of a Zionist program that has been developed
with diplomatic tact. “Although our ultimate aim
will be the establishment of the Jewish
nation in Palestine with Jewish control
and government, at present, the
leaders of Zionism will not demand a Jewish
state because the Jews are now in the minority,
and a protectorate with national rights under
the guardianship of England is much more advisable.” And like Weizmann, the
American Jewish Congress did not make a secret
of its long term goals– trusteeship of
Great Britain acting on behalf of such a
League of Nations as may be formed leading to
the development of Palestine into a Jewish commonwealth. Now the term commonwealth,
they’re just simply now quoting from the Balfour
Declaration, “that nothing will be done which may prejudice
the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish
communities in Palestine.” Fine, but what do they mean
by the term commonwealth? It was a synonym for a state. It reflects common
usage at the time. It was an important component
of Wilsonian rhetoric, which associated sovereignty with the
commonweal, the common good. This language was echoed by
nearly simultaneous conventions of the American Workers
of Zion in Philadelphia, which demanded an
independent, neutral, internationally-guaranteed
republic under the protection of the League of Nations. And then in January 1919, the
Canadian Zionist Federation called for a Jewish
commonwealth in Palestine. In February of 1919,
Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, one of the most prominent
Jewish leaders of America, spoke with assurance about
a forthcoming trusteeship on behalf of the Jews of
the world over Palestine. He directly compared
the Zionist cause to that of the
redemption of Belgium– that is, the
reconstruction of Belgium as an independent state– and the recreation of Serbia– sovereign, small,
and fragile states. Now the clarity and frequency
with which American Zionist spoke of statehood
for Palestine should come as no surprise given
that affirmations for Zionism came from the highest
officers of the United States government. The United States Congress
endorsed a Jewish commonwealth under British guardianship
in December of 1918. Another declaration of
support came in May of 1922. Woodrow Wilson
addressed a delegation of prominent American
Jews in 1919, saying, “I am persuaded that the allied
nations, with the fullest concurrence of our
government and people, are agreed that
in Palestine shall be laid the foundation of
a Jewish commonwealth,” or, as Wilson allegedly said
privately to Stephen S. Wise, “have no worries. Palestine will be yours.” So among the Zionist
public, expectations in the immediate post-Balfour
area were unashamedly statist. Zionism’s political elites
may have initially shared that euphoria. But over time, they became
more circumspect and pragmatic in the face of the challenges
of nation building, British fickleness, and
Palestinian Arab numerical domination and opposition. And it’s for this
reason– and I’m kind of bucking against a
historiographical trend here. But there’s a lot
of historians now who’ve been highlighting
Zionist leaders’ nonstate or sub-state approaches
to the future of the Jewish national home. And to some extent, it’s true. But I just wanted to
point out the extent to which Jews in the
public after World War really expected a state
was coming down the corner but that Britain was
going to give it to them. So it’s this dialectic between
dependence and independence. But Zionist leaders were
a bit more circumspect. For example,
Vladimir Jabotinsky, although known in
Zionist collective memory as an ardent champion
of Jewish statehood, actually developed
a program that was entirely dependent
on British protection and the incorporation
of Jewish Palestine into the British Empire. In 1922, Jabotinsky
suggested that he would be content “if the
Jewish national home were no more sovereign than Ontario
within the dominion of Canada.” He did this kind of
things many times. People would say, do
you want a Jewish state? He would say,
Tennessee is a state. Kentucky is a state. He even– New South Wales is
a state for the Australians in the audience. I like the comparison
to Ontario. Oh, he also compared Nebraska. The point is, then, that
he was quite flexible what he meant by state. And Jabotinsky was the
only major Zionist leader to embrace Josiah
Wedgwood’s 1928 call for the establishment
of a Jewish Palestine as a seventh British dominion. Normally in Canada,
the students all know what the other six were. But this country, it might
be a little tougher– Canada, Newfoundland–
Newfoundland did not become part of Canada until the
falsified referendum in 1949– Australia, New
Zealand, South Africa, and the Irish Free State. Jabotinsky claimed that even
if Palestine became 99% Jewish, he would prefer that Palestine
be part of the British Empire then that it be independent. Now Jabotinsky’s
dependence on Britain is obvious, but less clear
are his expectations. He wanted to see Britain
abrogate the League of Nations mandate, declare
Palestine a crown colony, and then move it
toward dominion status. But what did the word
dominion mean to him? By the end of the 1920s, the
British empire’s dominions were effectively
independent states. Each dominion had
individually signed the Treaty of Versailles. And the 1926 Balfour
Declaration– there was a second Balfour
Declaration in 1926 that had nothing to do with Palestine– placed them in a
position of equality with the United Kingdom. The ramifications of this
second Balfour Declaration were made clear in the 1931
Statute of Westminster, which rendered the dominions
legislatively independent, and Britain was no longer
under any blanket obligation to defend them if
they were attacked. So Jabotinsky really is
not using the term dominion in its contemporary sense. He and Wedgwood speak directly
of Palestine’s special needs for military protection
which separate it from other dominions. Jabotinsky very much hoped
that Jewish Palestine would be protected by Britain, and in
return, the Jews of Palestine would fight in Britain’s wars. This concept of the 7th
dominion and the mother country as having significant
mutual obligations was definitely something
of an anachronism in an era where, as Arie
Dubnov has written, the United Kingdom’s
approach to empire was increasingly informal. In its embrace of a gradualist
approach to the attainment of dominion status
and its openness to levels of
self-government that fell short of total sovereignty,
the seventh dominions scheme appears closer to
post-World War I British proposals
regarding governance of India than the development of
Anglo-Saxon settler dominions. Now in India, there
were important reforms in 1918 known as the
Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, and they were incorporated
into the India Act of 1919. They implemented a
complicated system of limited self-rule
called diarchy, with dominion to be attained
only in a hazy future. Now the Indian National
Congress dismissed these reforms as inadequate. But of course, to be
honest, most Zionists rejected the seventh
dominion idea. So Jabotinsky was quite
eccentric in this view of Palestine that would
be not sovereign, that would fight in Britain’s wars. But Chaim Weizmann himself
also was very gradualist and very much dependent on
Britain in his own approach to the future of Palestine. So in the 1920s,
then, Zionist leaders were clearly obliged to perform
a politics of dependence. True, though, few
desired to deepen their colonial
relationship with Britain. In the wake of the
1930 white paper which recognized
a dual commitment to Jewish and Arab
demands in Palestine, Zionist dissatisfaction with
Britain began to accelerate. These tensions
grew exponentially with the issuing of
the 1939 white paper which abrogated the
Balfour Declaration by throttling Jewish
immigration and decreeing the establishment
in 10 years time of a unitary state
with an Arab majority. And despite the uprooting
of the foundation of the Zionist-British
alliance in the face of the Nazi onslaught,
the Zionist movement remains dependent on Britain. So this leads me to a briefer
analysis of the Zionist movement finally beginning
to renegotiate its dependence on Britain in 1942. At the outbreak of
World War II, Britain counted on the dominions
to join the war effort. Most did enthusiastically,
but they were not under imperial compulsion. Similarly, the British
administration in Palestine encouraged volunteerism for
the British armed forces and was eager to recruit
Jews for the North African and Middle Eastern fronts. Recruitment rates,
however, were low. Most young Palestinian
Jews preferred to defend their
homes and families. They did not want to risk their
lives for a far away empire. The number of Palestinian Jewish
soldiers in the British army climbed only after the June
1941 Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, which mobilized young
leftists to defend communism against fascism, and the battles
of El Alamein in 1942, which removed the threat of a
German invasion of Palestine. Until the Irgun’s
famous revolt of 1944, the Zionist movement
consistently endeavored to balance
strivings for independence with ongoing
dependence on Britain. And this penumbra of empire
fell across the 1942 Biltmore program, which demanded Jewish
statehood in all of Palestine, using the term commonwealth,
but again, as I mentioned, it really means a state. David Ben-Gurion liked
the word commonwealth because he thought that
American Jews would like it because
of its association with, again, with
the common good. What’s weird about
the Biltmore program is that it’s often
represented in textbooks as a kind of assertion
of Jewish will. But if you read
the text carefully, it is as deferential
as it is assertive. It demands that Britain
fulfill the original purposes of the Balfour Declaration
and the mandate. It is not a rebellion
against Britain. It is replete with
passive moods. The program, quote, “urges
that the gates of Palestine be opened, that the Jewish
agency be vested with control of immigration
into Palestine and with the necessary authority
for building the country, and that Palestine
be established as the Jewish commonwealth.” In other words,
Jewish sovereignty would be granted
by the metropole. The Zionists were not going to
take on anything on their own. This ongoing diplomacy
of dependence was not unusual for
mid-twentieth century state-seeking movements,
clamoring for recognition by established state actors and
by the international community. Dependence by anti-colonial
liberation movements on patron states or clusters of states was
the rule and not the exception. For example, in the
1950s, communist China supported the Viet
Minh, a decade later provided arms for the Southwest
Africa Peoples’ Organization in Namibia. The Arab League helped finance
the [NON-ENGLISH] in Algeria. After 1967, the Soviet
Union’s KGB trained and armed Palestinian guerrillas. But the Zionist
position vis-a-vis patron states was different. In the other cases of
post-colonial state creation, diplomatic support
by an outside power for a state seeking movement
was coupled with material and military assistance. And in fact, the latter was
more important than the former. The Zionists, however,
had no patron state. The United States’ diplomatic
recognition of Israel in 1948 was crucial, but
the United States did not arm Israel the way,
say, China armed with Viet Minh. The Soviet Union allowed
Czech arms sales to Israel, but they were sales. They were not gifts. It took another three years
after the Biltmore conference for the Jewish diaspora,
primarily in the US, to become an avatar
of a patron state and assume the burden
of providing and paying for weapons and
military equipment. So it’s a very strange
thing that the Zionists have to become their
own patron state. It’s this kind of
self-reflexive quality that makes the Zionist case
different from India or Vietnam or really any other case of
anti-colonial, anti-regime state-seeking action. The Biltmore program
demanding that Britain fulfill the terms of the
Balfour Declaration and the mandate did
resemble an earlier document from a different
part of the British Empire– the Indian National
Congress’ 1929 call on Britain to allow
India to become independent. The [NON-ENGLISH] declaration
reflected a break from and a continuation of the
congress’ moderate policies. As Gandhi explained in 1930,
the Indian National Congress championed, I’m quoting
Gandhi, “the inalienable right of the Indian people
to have freedom and to enjoy the
fruits of their toil and have the
necessities of life. And to attain these freedoms,
India must sever the British connection and
attain [NON-ENGLISH],, complete independence.” For this reason, Gandhi rejected
dominion status for India even though by this
time, the dominions were functionally sovereign. Mainstream Zionism
was also cautious. Reflecting the prospect of
a minuscule Jewish state’s ongoing vulnerability,
Ben-Gurion was open, even
after World War II, to maintaining quasi-imperial
ties with Britain. He even hoped that
a Jewish state would enter a post-war
British Commonwealth. As in India, though,
moderation did not dampen the desire
for independence. In both India and Palestine, the
political leadership’s actions were promoted and complicated
by armed resistance. Unlike India’s
anti-colonial struggle, the fate of the
Zionist project was placed in the hand of
the United Nations, whose partition resolution
of November of 1947 legitimized Jewish statehood. And in the midst of
the war that followed, Israel proclaimed
its establishment via a document that departed
from the long-established discourse of
dependence and created a new, albeit
idiosyncratic, rhetoric of political independence. So even the Biltmore program had
this notion of dependence upon Britain, an issue that even
faced India in its concept of [NON-ENGLISH]. It’s a goal of independence,
but Gandhi himself does not lead rebellion against Britain. So the final thing I want to
talk about relatively briefly is Israel’s founding
declaration. Now this declaration was
written by many people– Moshe Sharett, David Ben-Gurion. Ben-Gurion himself played
a major role in it. It’s a very strange document– very cursory reference to
the Balfour Declaration, the mandate system, and
the League of Nations. Britain isn’t mentioned. That’s very interesting. Britain isn’t mentioned
because it’s not about Britain. It is about the historic
and collective rights of the Jewish people to
reconstitute a Jewish state in the biblical land of Israel. It finally de-centers Britain
and directly addresses the international community. And in this assertion of
sovereignty and presentation of a national narrative,
the Israeli declaration resembles declarations
of independence produced over the last 240
years, a period characterized by my
colleague David Armitage as a contagion of sovereignty. But the Israeli declaration
differs from other declarations of independence. I know it sounds like Passover. You thought we were
done with Passover. What makes this
declaration different from all other declarations? But it’s very interesting. It is an assertion of
self-constitution, not separation. The declaration was made on
May 14, 1948, the last day of the British mandate. So it could not be a declaration
of independence from Britain. Britain was already leaving. And during the
state’s early years, the 1948 war was known as
not only [NON-ENGLISH],, the War of Independence, but
also the war of [NON-ENGLISH],, standing tall, [NON-ENGLISH]. It comes from Leviticus. “I broke the bars of your yoke
and enabled you to walk erect.” The name of Israel’s
founding document is not the Declaration
of Independence. That’s not what you’ll see on
the Israeli foreign ministry website. It is “The Declaration
of the Establishment of the State of Israel.” Now why does this matter? if you look at every other
declaration of independence, and Armitage has
them all reproduced in his book, they all share a
historic narrative of grievance against a particular country. If any of you remember the
old TV show “Seinfeld,” the holiday Festivus– remember Festivus, there were
two components to the holiday. One was feats of strength
and the other was– remember? The airing of
grievances, exactly. For the United
States, the country who is the object of
grievance is Britain, right. For Haiti, it is France. For the Republic
of Texas, Mexico– for Hungary, the Habsburg
Empire, and so on and so on until Vietnam’s 1945 declaration
of independence from France. Even Liberia, which was not a
colony of any African polity, but rather an
entirely new creation still defines itself
against the United States for basically compelling the
African-Americans of Liberia to contribute to the
resources of a new country because the United States
had treated them so shabbily. The Israeli declaration, in
contrast to all of these, has an inward turn
historical narrative for a list of grievances
against an oppressor. The narrative links
the ancient origins of the Jews, the biblical
kingdoms, Herzl, the Balfour Declaration, the Holocaust,
and the partition resolution. By the way, the Czechoslovak
Declaration of Independence is similarly breathless. It covers hundreds and
hundreds of years stretching from Jan Hus to Woodrow Wilson. But it does have a dig
against Hapsburg oppression. They had to make sure
that it was there. The Yishuv leadership was
unsure of the desired content and purpose of this document. And in fact, several
different versions of it were proposed by April of 1948. And then an English-trained
Israeli lawyer named Mordechai Beham composed
a lengthy drafted declaration. It’s interesting what text
he had in front of him as he was working
on the declaration. He had the American
Declaration of independence, the Hebrew Bible, the English
Bill of Rights of 1689, the text of the League of
Nations mandate for Palestine, and the United Nations
partition resolution. Now this is interesting. The American Declaration
asserted sovereignty in an anarchic
international community that had certain unifying
conventions, but it did not have the formal
structures of 20th century international organization. There was no United
Nations in 1776. The Israeli declaration
assumes a need for international recognition,
which came in various stages– Balfour Declaration, the award
of the mandate, the partition resolution. All right, so you can see
what the declaration is really doing. It is directed to the
international community as a whole and
inwardly to the people of the new state of Israel. This act of declaring
independence whether via rebellion or separation,
as in most cases, or a constitution of a new state
within a geopolitical vacuum, as in Israel, is inherently
a display of yet another kind of dependence– not
dependence on a patron state, not dependence on
the colonial power, but dependence on the
international community, which is clearly written in
the in the declaration’s text, calling upon the international
community to recognize the state and to prevail
upon the Arabs to treat the Israelis– the new Jewish state
with good will. In conclusion, all
declarations of independence are aspirational– statements of intent
and not of fact. At the time of
Israel’s founding, as for many countries
asserting independence, there was an existential need
for patronage or assistance. During the American
Revolutionary War, the assistance came
from the French, and two centuries later during
its own war of [NON-ENGLISH],, Israel purchased arms
from France, Italy, and Czechoslovakia. But ultimately, it depended
on diaspora Jews for the funds without which it could not
have defeated the Arab armies. In the 1948 War, Jews were
both patron and client in the diaspora and
in the land of Israel. Similarly, Israel’s
declaration lacks references to an external oppressor. The Shoah, the
Holocaust, is mentioned. But it is mentioned as an act
of wanton destruction and not colonial oppression. A threnody is not
the same as a litany. Despite this tactical and
rhetorical self-sufficiency, the state of Israel has
remained a dependent, searching less for
allies, as would be the case for most sovereign
states, than for protectors. From the mid-1950s until 1967,
the most important patron was France. Thereafter, that role was
assumed by the United States. The language of Israel’s special
relationship with the United States constitutes
what is in many ways a radically different
type of dependence than that which I have
examined here for the period before 1948. That rhetoric deserves
analysis on its own terms but also against the historical
context of a national movement, Zionism, that seemed to always
crave recognition for what it claimed to know itself to be. Thank you. Looking forward–
yeah, look forward to your questions and comments. Hi, thank you very
much for all of that. I had a question about the piece
about– especially specially built up to Balfour. Yeah. You talked a lot about Herzl,
Weizmann, and Jabotinsky– Yeah. –and the way that
they conceived of Zionism’s relationship–
oh, thank you– conceived of
Zionism’s relationship to Britain and other powers. But I’m wondering if at
the same time, you were– there were others involved in
the Zionist movement, first of all, coming within Europe
from the political left, people like Nachman Syrkin
and [INAUDIBLE] Yeah. –and also outside of Europe,
people like Eliyahu [INAUDIBLE] and [INAUDIBLE] Zionist– Yeah. –activity and thought
that had much more to do with union with the
Arab and Islamic world. And I’m wondering how all
those kinds of leftist and [NON-ENGLISH] Zionisms
might have interacted with and possibly disagreed with the
more colonialist take of Herzl and Weizmann. That’s a very good question. I’m not sure,
frankly, because this is a contribution the history
of something that happened. The fact is, the
people who mattered, the people who were
con– you know, Weizmann was the one talking
to James Arthur Balfour and talking to Lloyd George
whereas the people you were mentioning were not. So this is very much a paper
about elites and elites who were highly influential. It’ll be interesting,
and I’ll look into this when I do the research
for the next book, the extent to which reactions– you know
who’s actually worked on this? What’s his name? Yuval– Yuval Evri? Isn’t that his name? Yuval Evri, he’s in London. I remember now. He gave a talk on this at a
conference in Harvard a few months ago about how Jews
of Middle Eastern origin in the [NON-ENGLISH] were
extremely uncomfortable with the Balfour declaration. But again, they had no voice. So this is a paper
about political leaders. But yes, I’m sure. However, having
said, you know, when I talk about the reaction
of the United States, this is coming not from elites. This is the [NON-ENGLISH]
which is a mass organization. The American Jewish Congress
is not an elite organization. The American Jewish
Committee is– American Jewish Congress isn’t. And so there’s a lot of
support among American Jews. Now does that mean
American Jews as a whole? No. I mean, Zionism is
obviously a minority– was even in the United States. But there is this
very excited moment, sort of late ’17, ’18, ’19– things die down after that– when I think that
there is huge support for some kind of Jewish
political independence in Palestine. And frankly, if
you were to mention to American Jews in
Philadelphia– let’s say you signed onto one of
these documents– well, what about the Palestinian Arabs? What about their rights? I just think they wouldn’t
have even thought about it. They wouldn’t even
understand it. So we have to be very careful
not to be anachronistic, right, and not to sort of
attribute to these people a capacity for understanding
a question that only became clear, at least
on an international scale, much later. Thank you. Your last sentence, [INAUDIBLE]
aspect of colonialism here on the way they did
think about the Palestinians, which was very much about we
will develop this country, economic prosperity. So there’s another way of
dependence on the other side. You will make the
natives, so to speak, dependent on our economic power. Hence, they will not be
upset about our taking over this country. So I think there’s
another story there. That’s– I mean, you know,
there’s what they say and what– you can interpret what they say. I mean, there is
this language of just we are grateful to Britain, they
will be grateful to us, right? We will come. We will develop their land. I mean, this is explicit
in [NON-ENGLISH].. [INAUDIBLE] says, of course. I mean– or he uses
the term gratitude– grateful to the Jews for all
the benefits they’ve brought. And that language shows
up throughout the 1920s. Is it a cynical ploy to– you know there’s a dependence
theory, trying to– I’m not sure. But yeah, I mean,
there is a desire to play the role of benevolent,
superior, civilizations power. On the other hand,
Palestinians weren’t terribly interested in that, and
that famous exchange between Ben-Gurion
and Musa Alami in 1934 where Musa Alami says, I
would rather this country remain barren for
100 years than that the technological
development come from you. I’d rather wait until
we can do it ourselves. But you know, I agree that there
was that kind of [NON-ENGLISH] component to Zionism. It was also a way of explaining
away Palestinian opposition. At least in the 20s,
they would say, well, this is because it’s a feudal,
undeveloped society that is being dominated
by its [INAUDIBLE] They had this notion of
the feudal [INAUDIBLE] and that once the Palestinians
discovered their– once they get over their
false consciousness, they’ll realize that their
economic interests line up totally with those
of the Zionists, which wasn’t exactly
the way that organized Palestinian laborers
saw the situation. Yeah. Thanks so much for the talk. I wonder whether the choice
to kind of phrase a dependency on the UK or to speak
in terms of commonwealth reflects not so much strategy
as lack of clarity about what Jewish identity really is. So in a sense that, on the one
hand, defining Jews as a people by their similarity or complete
overlap with the modern west– the Jews are Jews because
they’re British, basically. They’re modern. They’re universalistic. They’re moral. They’re civilized and
all that kind of thing. And therefore, the new
Jewish state and its identity has to look
something like the UK and be aligned with the
UK versus a different idea that through the
creation of a state, the Jews will completely
redefine themselves. They’ll truly be the
chosen people and distinct. And the Jewish state
will be the place where the new Jew, the new
Hebrew, will be created. And maybe the elites
are looking at– they had a clear statement in the
strategies they are pursuing. But maybe they couldn’t
figure out which direction they ultimately should go. And maybe they still
can’t figure out exactly which direction. Well, who was it
who said, history is what happens when
you– life is what happens if you’re making other plans. Isn’t that– Lennon. John Lennon, so
the other Lennon. I mean, it’s clear
that there was a kind– you know, getting back
to my earlier work, there was a technophilic aspect
that was pretty much universal in early Zionism. Even before the turn, making
the desert bloom was popularized and that you could identify
your right to Palestine, at least in part, by this
developmental mission. And you see this in the
statements by the American Jewish Congress and
the [NON-ENGLISH] that there’s going to be a
paradise in Palestine– a land with no war,
with no machines of war. Swords will be
beaten to plowshares and that sort of thing. So I don’t know if that’s
a primary component of their Jewish identity, but
I think it’s very hard for them to think of their
Zionism without that kind of technological, developmental,
and Utopian aspect. Yeah, very much so. Hi. Hello. [INAUDIBLE] I’m just wondering if you could
talk a little more about what seems to be a
hovering, long term historical story because when
you’re talking about Weizmann, you’re talking about
sort of Jewish politics over a long period of
time and how you saw this, at least in his framing and
Herzl’s too, as a longer story. But the thrust of much of
what you’re talking about is very much a sort of
20th century colonial or subset of colonial
history and how the Jews fit or didn’t fit into it. So I’m curious how you see
that longer story fitting in. Yeah, well, it gets to this
bigger question about– we were talking
earlier today with some of the students– you
know, to what extent we fit Zionism entirely
within or not at all within certain colonial,
anti-colonial, post-colonial frameworks. Basically goes back to a book
that I believe you co-edited– Heard of that book. –on the subject. So you know, what can I say
that wasn’t already the book? That– I mean, for
this paper, when I was researching this
thing about India, I mean, on the one hand, you’ve
got this massive colony that has been under British
control over a very long time. And you have a
very well-developed Indian national
movement, which has had its– it didn’t talk
about this in the paper. It’s had its radical movement. The Ghadar movement during the
last decade before World War I was violence. And these are the ones who are
running around San Francisco. You know, they went to Berkeley
and Stanford, most of them. And these are the ones who were
rounding up money to buy a ship and fit it with 10,000
rifles and send it to India. And you’ve got at the same time,
the German-Hindu conspiracy, as it was called, right? This effort during
World War I to get on German and Indian
nationalists to– actually, they were going
to wreak terrorist havoc on Canada. They were going
to get Irish also to blow up the Welland
Canal in Ontario. So you have a very militant
Indian national movement in part. But for the most
part, it’s actually– not quiescent, but
it’s not militant. And even when Gandhi– you know, Gandhi in World
War I had very much favored India being involved in
the British war effort. So when does this all change? It happens slowly. It happens– really, it’s
1920 after World War I. But you know, the real break
only comes in 1929, 1930. So this notion of being
dependent, even if you don’t want to be dependent and being
slow to rise to militant, is not unique to the Zionists. So on one level,
the Zionist dilemma is not unique because it’s
shared by the Indians, for example. On the other hand, it’s very
different in that the Zionists, they depend on Britain
for longer than most other colonized nations. And if they can’t rely
on Britain any longer, they can’t do it themselves. But they don’t have a
patron state either. That’s where they’re– they’re
unique in that they don’t have a patron state. I mean, there are lots of– I wrote about in my patron state
article a couple of years ago. You know, these other
anti-colonial movements, they all have diasporas that
help out to some extent. But they usually have a state
to help them out as well. So the Zionists, in
some levels, they do resemble these anti-colonial
movements of the 20th century. And in some respects, they
are entirely on their own. So that’s– as usual, you know,
with everything I come up with, it’s sort of a little mix
of, well, somewhat colonial, somewhat anti-colonial, and
even a pinch of post-colonial. So I want to follow
a little bit on what I think Ed was referring to. And I’m trying to
articulate this. I think listening
to your talk, I felt like this was one side
of what the story of Zionism was about. It is the story of
how do you bring about a political process. It’s a Weizmann sort of
tactic of doing that. There is another
side of it, which is the revolutionary
self-transformative aspect. Yeah. And you stop in 1948. I’m thinking of partly
because of my own interest that 1948, the
generation of people who were born after
1948 in that state are people who, not because
of their own will but because of the process that culminated
in 1948, had been transformed. And they were
transformed because of a dynamic that existed
in Zionism long before they were conceived. Right. And I’m curious as to how do
you balance between these two, one a very diplomatic,
careful, in many ways traditional process,
and the other, which is completely different. It’s to change things– to tear everything down and
build something new which, of course, has to do also
with what happens in 1948, the tearing down so as to build
something new, both yourself and others. Yeah, no, that’s
a great question. And you know, the militants– first of all, there’s a
difference between a kind of ethos of
militance, militancy, an ideal of the new
Hebrews, [NON-ENGLISH].. Remember the first book I ever
read in Hebrew was a biography of the [NON-ENGLISH]
Alexander Zaid. It was a children’s biography
that my kibbutz parents gave me. And I remember chapter
one, [NON-ENGLISH],, a man who knows how to repair
or how to work with weapons of war– you know, riflery
or firearms, firearms. So there is that. But the question is, in terms
of the big international stage, what does it really matter? Until 1946, you know
the events leading up to Operation Agatha, the common
involvement of the Haganah, Irgun, Lehi, and anti-British
guerrilla activity, the terrorism of the
Irgun and of Lehi and so on, then it
becomes serious. And that is, after all,
one of the reasons– you know, historians still
argue, why did the British throw in the towel? I mean, if Ben-Gurion,
as Gil Rubin has told us, was really willing to go
along with the Morrison-Grady Plan in the summer of
1946, why did the British throw in the towel
just a few months later and turn the whole
thing over to the UN? So Bruce Hoffman, a security
studies expert who’s written a kind of massive book,
Anonymous Soldiers– so based on the
Stern Gang anthem– basically saying, yeah,
I mean, the terrorism of the Jewish militant
groups mattered. So that’s part of the story. But then you have the 1948 War,
which clearly, without the war, there is no Israel, absolutely. But then I’m
wondering after 1948. Now you have this empowered IDF. And you’ve got this kind of
muscular, militarized culture. Fine. But it’s still a
very fragile state, and it still is dependent on
an international community. And it needs protectors,
however powerful it might be. First of all, where’s the
weapons going to come from? They can’t just make do
with little homemade weapons like they had in 1948. They need real weapons. So they have to get them from
France and then from the US. And I’ve just been
thinking about this a lot in a much bigger sense in
terms of Israel’s status today. You know, in 1987,
I think it was, Israel was declared an MNNA,
Major Non-NATO Ally, which is a military status accorded
by NATO to Japan and Australia and one other friendly country. I forget which one. OK, so that means Israel
is an ally, a country whose strategic interests are often
seen as being akin to those of the NATO alliance. I think we know about
the extent to which the American and Israeli
military train together, storage of American weaponry
on Israeli soil, and so on. So in that sense, Israel is not
just in search of a protector. It’s an ally. But I still think of
a very weak country that is entirely dependent
upon diplomatic and military support– in this case, from
the United States. What if, you know,
the $38 billion funding package
had not been signed during the last months or
the last year of Obama’s second term? So I completely accept what
you’re saying about the new Jew, the military culture, and
of course the firepower that Israel has, you know, rained
down upon the Palestinians from ’48 to our own day– absolutely. But I still see a
state that, within the international
community, can’t survive without protection. And so I’m trying to
figure out, theoretically, the difference between a
protected body, a client, and an ally. They’re all a little different. And I see Israel still was
very much a [NON-ENGLISH],, a protected state rather
than a full-throated ally. So I’m just– I’m
still working through. So I’m not denying
the cultural element. It’s there. But when you get
to the realpolitik, I’m not so sure if it
changes things that much. So. Hi. So one thing you said
earlier that stood out to me was about this– sort of inherent in
this dependency argument is the Jewish relationship
to states in general and this desire to be mobilized. And in that, there seems
to be these sort of ideas of inclusion and assimilation. And I wonder in your research
if you could talk a little about if you see within this strategy
of dependency a shift after the events of ’39 to ’45,
which are this sort of extreme rebuking of that idea
of being mobilized, being included in
within like a state, and also how that
dependency, how fear, kind of like this external
security threat, which is– I mean, the singular
external security threat that emerges from
’39 under ’45– how that shifts the logic of
dependency after that period. So really, it sounds like you
were asking how the Holocaust– Yes. –works– yeah, great
question It’s a funny thing. In the famous line of
Ben-Gurion, in 1939, we shall fight Hitler as if
there was no white paper– we shall fight the white paper
as if there was no Hitler. As Gil Rubin shows in many
ways, the outbreak of the war was a godsend to the
Zionists because the May, 1939 paper had destroyed
the Zionist project. And the outbreak of
World War I many Zionists thought it would be a
source of liberation. There would be a major war. They were already, one
month into the war, forming committees
to plan the post-war. They have institutes planning
the post-war and what they can get out of it. And one thing they
assume is there’ll be a massive demographic– they don’t predict
the Holocaust. They think there’ll be
massive demographic upheaval in eastern Central Europe. There will be millions
of Jewish refugees. And of course, they’ll
need a place to go. So in a way, the Zionists
entered the very beginning of the war with an
almost optimistic feeling that they can come out of this
war much better than where they were in May in 1939. So they’re not yet completely
destroyed emotionally. Their state of dependence on
Britain during the war they can see as quite empowering. And in fact, Ben-Gurion wants
Jews to sign up for the British forces because the more Jews
are in the British forces– and 30,000 wind up in
the British forces– the more they learn
how to be in an army. He wants them to learn how to
do things that the [NON-ENGLISH] didn’t do very well, like follow
a chain of command, you know, and operate like an army. And so it’s no coincidence that
a number of the senior officers who commanded the IDF
in its early years had been British staff
officers during the war. I mean, that is the Jews from
[NON-ENGLISH] who had served in the British armed forces. So in any way, this is
actually empowerment for the fledgling
state of Israel to have this kind of
dependency relationship on Britain during the war. It’s also a source
of empowerment because they can use
British military assistance for their own ends. So the British
wanted there to be a mobile, permanent military
strike force basically to do things like
attack Vichy Syria. It’s the origins of
the [NON-ENGLISH].. And then now,
thanks to this, you have a well-armed
well-trained military force that wasn’t there before,
which of course will become essential for the young state
of Israel in 1947 to 1949. So dependence on
Britain and World War II can actually be
quite empowering. The Holocaust leads to a
double sense of, I’d say, emotional devastation. First is the obvious fact
that everybody loses dear ones and dear ones, all Jews
of European origin, which is the bulk of the
[NON-ENGLISH] in 1948. They lose their closest ones. But there’s also the
problem that, oh my god, all those Jews who are going
to form the state of Israel are dead. 2/3 of the Jews of
Europe are dead. Who’s going to populate
our new country? So then they think,
OK, well, maybe we’ll draw the Jews from
the Middle East or we’ll get whatever we can
from, you know, Eastern Europe. And so they begin to think
very differently about the kind of borders that they need. And that’s one reason why in
1946, ’47, the Zionists begin to say, OK, we want
to state, but we’re willing to live
with smaller borders than the entirety of Palestine. So yes, they are emotionally
devastated by the Holocaust. But it’s also a demographic
disaster for them. But it’s interesting to think
about the dependence on Britain during World War II. I mean, the way– when you
read Ben-Gurion’s memoranda during World War Ii
about the Jewish army within the Allied
forces and the role it can and should play,
it’s all about how we’re going to use Britain
for our purposes in the post-war peace conference
just like we did after World War I, just like we did
after World War I. You know, there’s that line that generals
always fight the last war. So my notion is that
policymakers always plan post– they’re always planning
for the last post-war. Other questions from students in
particular, especially students who were at my– came earlier and sat
through the seminar early? Any questions? If nobody has–
I’ll try one more. I was very intrigued by the
talk and I’m even more intrigued by the comments just now about
dependence and dependency. So it seems to me– I’m a complete outsider
to the discourse. But it’s rather obvious
that any small nation is going to be dependent. That’s just the
nature of the world. Singapore is
dependent ultimately on the US for defense. Norway is dependent and
Israel is dependent. I think what’s interesting is– whereas we wouldn’t expect to
see the head of state of Norway or the head of
state of Singapore supporting an opposition
candidate publicly in, say, an election
or visiting the country after the election
of a president and speaking before Congress– I’m not making a
political statement. Hypothetically, you’re talking. No, but in reality, the
ability or willingness of the Israeli state or
politicians to go to the power that they are
ostensibly dependent on and engage in, for lack of
a better term, chutzpah– Yeah. –that to me is just
objectively– that’s something worth explaining. Yeah. And I think that gets to
what you’re talking about, the nature of Zionism
and some of the ethic and ethos and ideology
of what this state is. This isn’t Norway. It’s not Singapore. And therefore, the
nature of its dependence is much more complicated. And in fact, the
tail can wag the dog under some circumstances. Whether– we can
celebrate it or not, but it just makes
it interesting. The tail can wag the dog. Sometimes, the
dog wags the tail. You know, in 1970– as Joel Migdal
points out, in 1973, Israel did the US a huge
service when Israel basically threatened to intervene in the
Jordanian civil war on behalf– against Syria on behalf of King
Hussein, which is exactly what the American– what the
Nixon administration wanted. And it was in Israel’s
best interests too. But you know, they did exactly
what the Americans wanted. We assume that this attack
against the Iranian base in Syria was also something
that the Americans give a green light to. Sometimes, the
tail wags the dog. The Israelis do
all kinds of things that American administrations
have found infuriating. The interesting question would
be how and when Israel became not just a client state or a
patron state or even an ally, but you know, a state that
is pushing its own agenda to the point where it’s really
trying to influence, say, American domestic politics. And you know, APAC
was historically– there’s a colleague from
USC, actually, who’s writing a history of APAC
in the 1950s– this very mild, moderate
organization that actually was found due to the
instigation of the US Congress. They wanted a kind
of central address. Like, who are going
to talk to when we need to talk to
somebody about Israel? So they actually encouraged
the creation of APAC, and it was totally bipartisan
and remained that way for a very long time. So I suppose– I
mean, I’m not going to do this in my next book. It might be fun to go into
this further about not just how dependence
becomes independence, but how independence then
becomes intervention. Yeah, that would
be a lot of fun or a great doctoral dissertation. Yeah. Along those lines–
along those lines, can you talk a little bit about
when Israel gained the leverage over the United States and was
no longer that client state so much and– yeah. Good question. I mean, obviously, the
dependence is still there. Without the weapon–
the state of Israel, what could it do
without the weaponry? I mean, yes, Israel has
its own military industries and they sell
military– you know, they sell weaponry abroad. But they couldn’t
survive without American military assistance. So the dependence
is still there, but they’ve acted as
an independent agent. You know, in 1956 after
the Suez incident, the Eisenhower
administration was always publicly furious with
the state of Israel, although quietly, it
offered Israel kind of informal security guarantee. So you can say that even then,
Israel came out of the ’56 war, this egregious act of colonial
sort of gunboat diplomacy– they came out of it in
a stronger position. And in ’67, you
know, it was very clear to the American
government that Israel was going to attack. And at no point did the
Johnson administration ever tell Israel if you do it,
there will be consequences. They said things like,
we urge you not to do it. But there was never a clear
red light– like, if you do it, there will be– and of course, Israel did it. So I think this actually
goes very far back, this kind of growing
sense that Israel has a kind of latitude in its
actions visa vi the Arab world. On the other hand, there
have been slaps on the wrist. 1973, you know, it took
the Nixon administration its own good time before
they authorized the airlift without which Israel might
not have won the 1973 war. So I think this is a
very gradual product. And then, you know,
the Jonathan Pollard, which was, God, early 90s– when was it? Early 90s? I lose track it was so long ago. 80s already? Reagan Administration. Yeah. But you know, I’m wondering
typologically if the Jonathan Pollard affair is that different
from what in Hebrew was called the [NON-ENGLISH],, the shameful
business in the early 1950s when Egyptian Jews were
mobilized to plant bombs at American and British cultural
and diplomatic installations in Egypt in order to discredit
the Nasser regime, right? That’s chutzpah. And unfortunately, one
of their operatives was a double agent for Egypt. So the whole thing
got blown and it was a very bad thing for Israel. So I’m wondering, you
know, this willingness of the state of Israel
to act on its own, it might be something that far
predates even 1967 or even ’56. Does it possibly stem from the
utilization of or recognition of the influence
that the diaspora has in American politics and using
that as a sense of insurance because any act by the
United States against Israel would enrage many
constituencies? I don’t think that was
an issue until the Reagan administration. It’s important you’re
not to be anachronistic. The American Jewish
community in 1948 was not nearly as politically
mobilized on behalf of Israel as it would be
many decades later. And there’s a lot of
speculation about why Truman, in his famous speech in
1946, the Yom Kipper speech, argued that Britain
should except 100,000 Jews to Palestine. And some people say, you know,
there’s elections coming up and he was interested
in the Jewish vote. But there were a lot of other
things going on as well. You know, Eisenhower in ’56
had no interest whatsoever in Jewish political pressure. Nixon never seemed
to care very much about Jewish political pressure. He had totally different
reasons for supporting Israel. And I think a lot of this is a
product of the growth of APAC in the 1980s, but I believe
that APAC was actually brought to the surface
not by its own energy but by the political empowerment
of evangelical Christians in the Reagan administration who
have been historically a much more important source of
political support for Israel than the Jewish community. There’s so many more of them. You talk about the vote. You know, in the
1980s, there were something like 60 million
evangelical Christians. Now the number is
probably about the same, but the population has gone up. So their numbers seem
to be going down. So I think this again
is a process that really does not date back
more than about 30 years. I don’t think that the fear of
the American Jewish community alone can really explain
American foreign policy. In that sense, I differ from
Walt, my Harvard and Chicago colleagues, Walton
Mearsheimer, who wrote a rather controversial
book a few years back called The Israel Lobby, which I
think does for Jewish influence a little bit of what Chaim
Weizmann encountered when he was negotiating the
Balfour Declaration, where the British interlocutors really
believed that American Jews had the power to bring the
Americans into World War I and that Russian Jews had
the power to keep Russia from leaving for war. I don’t believe that Jews
had that kind of power. At least if they did,
I didn’t get that memo. Yeah. So I’m wondering if you see– you pretty clearly don’t see
waning Israeli dependence on the United States but an
increased Israeli willingness to buck the United
States within the– do you think that means that
the US has a lesser role to play in future iterations
of the peace process or why US-led efforts
like Camp David in 2000 have been less affected
because there’s more Israeli willingness
to buck what the US wants? Yeah, I don’t think the
failure of Camp David 2 in 2000 was simply because
of an Israeli desire to whistle in the
face of the Americans. My colleagues who
work on negotiation will say that the Camp David
2 summit was determined to fail because there what– no
party trust in any other party. The Palestinians went into
it willingly, unprepared. The Israelis went
into it immediately with swagger and with
definitive demands that the Palestinians
did not want to accept. The Americans–
Clinton did not do an effective job trying to
gain the trust of the parties. But I do think that the Amer– I mean, obviously, this current
administration is rapidly retreating from its
ability to engage the international community. I cannot imagine this
administration floating a proposal that could bring some
kind of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. I think it’s just beyond– it’s beyond belief. But your question has to do
with issues of dependence. Yeah, I was going
to say, do you see Israel being less willing
to come to the table now than in the past because
they are more willing to buck what the US wants? So even if this administration
did want them at the table as compared to Israel
30 years ago, do you think they would be
less willing to do so as a result of this
historical trend? Problem is, I’m not
sure how much we can explain the Israeli
political elites as rational actors. Let’s say Hillary Clinton had– she did win the
election, I’m sorry. Let’s say she won the
electoral college. She was president of
the United States now. Now remember,
Hillary Clinton was extremely– in her
whole life has been extremely supportive of Israel. I’m not sure if she
would be presenting– she would be presenting
a coherent plan that might be somewhat different
from what the Trump administration is planning. Would that be enough to
satisfy minimal Palestinian expectations? I’m not at all sure. It does seem that
now, Israel is sitting in a very strong position partly
because of the $38 billion defense package that the
Obama administration signed, partly because of the
geopolitical situation in that the international community now
has things that are much more worrisome than Israel-Palestine
with Russia, Iran, Syria, North Korea at hand with
the reconfiguration of the Arab world where Israel
and Egypt are essentially allies. Israel and Saudi Arabia
are becoming allies. The Palestinians have no
major diplomatic support. This is not the
days of the Cold War where they had support from
China and from the Soviet Union. So in such an
atmosphere, I think Israel is simply reading
the geopolitical tea leaves. I don’t think it’s
simply because of changes in American policy. The question is, and I don’t
have an answer, what would it takes to get
things to change? What would it take to
get things to change? And I think it would
take a number of things. It would take a different
American administration and it would take a series
of exogenous shocks, some of them very unpleasant, that
would directly affect Israel. We might see some
of those shocks just in the coming weeks in terms of
military involvement with Iran. I mean, I don’t know
what’s going to happen. But there will
have to be a change in the American
administration, to be sure. But that won’t be only factor. I’m sorry I can’t
predict the future. I have a hard enough time
figuring out the past. I think this is the
right time to move on. Well, thank you so much. Thank you.

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