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Apr 15th 2009

100 Years of Zionism and 50 Years of Israel: What can the world learn from it?

The following piece is reprinted with permission from FLAME (Facts and Logic About the Middle East). Visit FLAME’s website, to see all of their outstanding work.

In 1894, Theodor Herzl, a journalist and thoroughly assimilated Austrian Jew, was assigned by his Vienna paper to cover the notorious Dreyfus trial in France. The experience of seeing this Jewish officer being railroaded to a life sentence on Devil’s Island led him to the recognition that life for Jews in Europe was untenable and that the solution of the “Jewish problem” lay in the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.

What are the facts?

The Birth of a Dream. The return to Zion had for 2,000 years been the dream of Europe’s dispersed Jews, the only hope in their miserable lives. “Next year in Jerusalem” had always been the watchword. But nothing was done to bring this dream to reality. Theodor Herzl organized the first Zionist Congress in Basel (Switzerland) in 1897 and political Zionism was born.

The concept of creating a new nation in what was then a sparsely-settled country was something totally new, never before attempted in the history of mankind. But Herzl’s vision fired up world Jewry and especially the Jews of eastern Europe, who were despairing under the yoke of Russian oppression and recurring pogroms. Energized by Zionist aspirations, British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour issued his famous Declaration in 1917, by which Palestine was established as a national home for the Jewish people. In 1922, the League of Nations entrusted Britain with the Mandate for Palestine. Regrettably, and contrary to the Balfour Declaration and the provisions of the Mandate, Britain decided that the provisions for setting up a Jewish national home would not apply east of the Jordan River; that area constituted three-fourths of the territory of the Mandate and eventually became the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan. Only one-quarter of Palestine remained to fulfill the Jewish dream.

A Nation is Born and Succeeds. The modern state of Israel was founded in May 1948, almost exactly fifty years ago — fifty years after Herzl formulated the concept. Immediately upon its creation, the country was invaded by the armies of five Arab countries. With a total Jewish population of only about 650,000, and with limited armaments and resources, the ragtag army of Israel defeated the combined might of the aggressors and established itself firmly within its boundaries. Transjordan (now renamed Jordan) stayed in possession of Judea/Samaria (now known as the “West Bank”) and the eastern part of Jerusalem. Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip. The price was very high. In this bloodiest of wars imposed on Israel, over 6,000 citizen-soldiers died — over 1% of the population. It is as if the United States were to suffer a loss of close to 3 million people! It was not the only war that its neighbors visited on Israel. In the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel once again prevailed; it re-possessed Judea/Samaria (the “West Bank”), the eastern part of Jerusalem, and conquered the vast Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights. And once more, in 1973, the Arabs tried to destroy Israel in the Yom Kippur War. Once more, they suffered defeat.

Despite being under constant attack and siege and having suffered over 20,000 dead in those defensive wars, Israel created social and political systems and an economy that continues to amaze experts worldwide. Israel is the only truly democratic country in the entire Middle East, with governmental structure and institutions comparable to those of the United States. Its economy — despite the enormous defense expenditure mandated by the aggressiveness of its neighbors and despite the effort and expense of having absorbed more than 2.5 million immigrants (four times the population at the creation of the state) — can only be described as a miracle of human accomplishment. Virtually everything — infrastructure such as roads, railroads, ports, airports, water carriers, electricity stations and distribution networks — had to be built from a minimal base. Today, Israel’s economy is booming. It is a leader in high-tech technology, it has created one of the most advanced agricultural systems in the world, it is one of world leaders in economic growth rate, it has one of the highest per-capita incomes in the world, and it is the world leader in exports per capita.

We have in this century seen the demise of many “isms”, the most prominent failure being that of Communism. But Zionism, the national movement of the Jewish people, has flourished despite incredible obstacles — to an extent that the visionary Theodor Herzl could not have possibly imagined 100 years ago. One would think that the world, especially the emerging nations, would wish to learn from Israel’s example, so as to emulate its achievement. Unfortunately, almost the exact opposite is the case. Goaded by the Arab nations, inalterably hostile to Israel and single mindedly dedicated to its destruction, the United Nations has offered far over 100 resolutions censuring Israel’s actions.


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