In a commentary published in the Arab News (Jeddah) on October 17, the British journalist Neil Berry focuses on a reality which is rarely mentioned in polite society: that Zionism is, and has always been, an anti-Semite’s dream come true, offering the hope that one’s own country’s Jews can be induced to leave and move elsewhere.
Berry writes: “The imperious British statesman, A.J. Balfour, who gave his name to the declaration, was an earnest supporter of the 1905 Alien Act, which was specifically designed to stem the inflow into Britain of Jews who were fleeing from persecution in czarist Russia. A century ago, immigrant Jews were seen by many, much as Muslims are now, as subversive intruders menacing the British way of life…. Zionism and anti-Semitism became inextricably bound up with one another.”
Citing a better-known cause for the enduring shame of Western states, Berry continues: “In the aftermath of the liquidation by the Nazis of some 6 million Jews during World War II, the United States, Australia and Canada, brushing aside Arab pleas to treat displaced Jews as a challenge for the whole world, refused to relax their immigration restrictions, thereby ensuring that the great majority of them poured into Palestine, even though many would have preferred to settle elsewhere…. It was with shrewd foresight that Herzl predicted that anti-Semitism would become Zionism’s greatest ally.”
Western governments which, today, are not anti-Semitic should, rather than feeding justice, human decency and international law into a shredder through blind subservience to a racial-supremicist, settler-colonial experiment (and thereby earning themselves the hatred of much of mankind), be opening their doors wide to any and all Israeli Jews who might be tempted to build a new and better life for themselves and their children, with less injustice and less insecurity, by returning to their countries of origin or emigrating to other countries of their choice, offering them immediate residency rights, generous resettlement assistance and a rapid road to citizenship (if they do not already have it).
Such “Laws of Return” would be profoundly philo-Semitic, pro-Jewish and, yes, anti-Zionist. They would reflect a moral, ethical and self-interested recognition that Zionism, like certain other prominent 20th century “isms” which once captured the imaginations of millions, was a tragically bad idea — not simply for those innocents caught and trampled in its path but also for those who embraced it — which is unsustainable, which does not deserve to be sustained and which has already caused (and, if perpetuated, will continue to cause) profound problems for the Western world and the Western world’s relations with the rest of the world.
Democracy and equal rights in a unitary state in the land which, until 1948, was called Palestine, coupled with freedom of choice (with attractive choices for resettlement being generously provided) for those who would prefer not to live in such a state, would offer a far greater hope for eventual peace in the Middle East than continued cyncical recycling of a partition-based “peace process” which is now widely recognized to be both a fraud and a farce and which, even if “successful”, would simply legitimize, reward and perpetuate ethnic cleansing, racism and apartheid — scarcely a recipe for lasting peace, let alone for any measure of justice.
If Western politicians cared more about the welfare and happiness of individual Jewish human beings than they do about the money and ability to hurt them of a few wealthy and powerful Zionists, most of whom live comfortably and safely far from the Middle East, democracy, equal rights and freedom of choice, all principles to which Western states profess devotion, might actually come to the “Holy Land”.
Politicians being what they are, civil society will have to take the lead in delegitimizing Zionism and pointing the way toward a better future for all concerned — and, like it or not, everyone on this planet is concerned.
JOHN V. WHITBECK, an international lawyer who has advised the Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel, is author of “The World According to Whitbeck“.