Israel and the Shoah

Israel and the Shoah

Re the June 19 editorial “History lesson”:

Recently, I found myself reminiscing about my release, in February 1949, from the British detention camp in Cyprus (at the time a British colony) and subsequently having been drafted into the Israeli army. In reflecting about those days of great wonder 61 years ago, I couldn’t help focusing on one of the most towering questions about Jewish life since the dispersal of the people of Israel in the days of antiquity.

What made possible Israel’s Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948?

Two schools of thought have emerged in an attempt to explain the momentous event of the birth of modern Israel:

(a) The modern unfolding of the return to the ancient land of Israel began in earnest with Theodor Herzl and the first Zionist Congress in Basel in the late 19th century. It continued with the waves of Jewish immigrants who made their way to Palestine, also in the 19th century, to participate in rebuilding the nation. It is a history that goes back not centuries but millennia. The Holocaust may have accelerated the emergence of the Jewish state, but it was not its source. With sustained fortitude and historical devotion, the State of Israel would have come into being, eventually.

(b) Had it not been for the enormity of guilt (awkwardness and profound distress) felt by the people and governments of leading European powers (and the United States no less) in response to the cosmic evil of the Holocaust, the consent by the Christian world for the creation of an independent Israel would have been humanly inexplicable.

Given the historical aversion for the Jews, ranging from sophisticated expressions of antipathy to massacring pogroms, how could Christianity suddenly condone pro-Jewish pursuits? But it did.

Note: The “sympathetic” expressions by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman – and earlier by Balfour, Churchill, and others – for an independent Jewish home may have been sincere, but they were shallow in terms of implementation and historical commitment. Only when the United Nations finally understood the meaning of atonement and ultimate inhumanity did independent Israel of 1948 become a reality.