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Tuesday, December 28 2010

The Holocaust's Boomerang Effect On Public Diplomacy

Obama_yadvashem I was never comfortable with the way Israel has over-emphasized the connection between the Holocaust and the founding of the state. Benny Levy's compelling commentary in YNet News strikes a chord with me:

When President Obama asserted in his Cairo speech that the aspirations for a Jewish homeland originated in our undeniably tragic history, many around here were insulted. “Why did he say that? After all, we’re not here because of the Holocaust.” Yet Obama is not at fault. After all, the Holocaust is the narrative presented by Israel itself to its guests (and to its own sons.)

. . .

The custom of bringing Israel’s guests to Yad Vashem first carries a loud message. It creates the impression that the Holocaust is the reason and justification for the state’s existence; it places Israel on a podium of victimization, refugees, and the quest for a shelter.

However, Israel’s pillars were laid dozens of years before the Holocaust. Its cornerstone is the Zionist idea. Israel is first and foremost a national revival enterprise. Israel is first and foremost a national revival enterprise. Historian Barbara Tuchman once wrote that Israel is the only nation in the world “that is governing itself in the same territory, under the same name, and with the same religion and same language as it did 3,000 years ago."

Indeed, plenty of Western journalists assume that Jewish connections to the Holy Land began only date back to 1917, 1948, even 1967.

There are connections between the Holocaust and Israel's founding. But years of over-emphasis are having a boomerang effect on Israel's public diplomacy.

Read the whole article.



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But if you look at the immigration figures you will see that the numbers of Jewish immigrants to Israel was very small until the USA changed its immigration policy and largely shut its doors to east Eurpean Jews in 1920. Before that despite the revival of Zionism in the 19th Century it sees that USA was the "promised land". The 2nd great spur to Jewish immigration to Israel was the rise of fascism in Germany in the 30's. I doubt that without these 2 major spurs to Jewish immigration the numbers would ever have been anything like they were at the time of the foundation of the State of Israel. So quite possibly the "Zionist" idea would not have caught on to such an extent without pesecution in eastern Europe and Germany together with the restrictive USA immigration policy. And surely the Holocaust was a very major in achieving the positive vote for the Jewish State in the UN.

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