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|Author: Abba Eban|
Labor Zionism represents a particular vision of Jewish destiny- a free nation, building a just society and safeguarding it. Jewish national freedom and social justice are the poles of our doctrine, our point of departure, our destination. The relationship and union between these two values, at times the tensions or contradictions, and, in the final resort, the balance between them, mark the ideological and political course of Labor Zionism in a period of revolutionary change.
Zionism and the Community of Nations
There is nothing new in the attempt to refer Zionism to broader universal, social doctrines. The paradox of Jewish existence is, indeed, that Zionism represents whatever is distinctive and exclusive in our lives. It seems to salvage Jewish particularity, -Am levadad yishkon- to draw strength and vitality from no source but its own inner being. In one mood, Israel is deeply introvert, looking inward upon itself as the one State on earth which shares neither language, faith nor historic experience with any other. In another mood, Zionism is profoundly universalistic: it sought to deflect Jewish history out of a provincial channel of flow into the general currents of human history and culture once more. By establishing the Jewish State in all its singularity we would, at the same time, make the Jewish nation what it could not otherwise be, member of a universal community of nations greater than itself.
Thus all the founders of Zionism reasoned and wrought. Herzl and Pinsker are understandable only as a response to the specific needs of Jewish history and, no less, to galvanizing, contemporary, forces of national liberation. Happenings in Italy and Bulgaria, in Poland and Greece, in the nineteenth century made it natural that the quest for a solution of the Jewish problem be aligned to the ideal of the day -of freeing nations from external servitudes. Deeper into Jewish life in Eastern Europe, we find Samuel Mohilever and the forerunners of the Mizrachi Movement aligning the concept of Jewish national revival to the old faith. For long, Zionism had been cast out of the mainstream of Jewish orthodoxy: it was regarded as a usurpation of the exclusive right of the Almighty to bring about deliverance by miracles. But just as Herzl had synthesized Zionism and national liberty, so did Mohilever and his like synthesize ancient prophecy and modern political activism. Moshe Hess, Borochov, Sirkin and their successors created the integration between Zionism and Socialism.
After the Second World War, Weizmann and his colleagues tasted the special atmosphere of Wilsonian self-determination, the concept of the final triumph of nations, each within its historic homeland. The Weizmann era dovetailed Zionism into this trend, enriching it with a pioneering element of scientific humanism.
Labour Zionism's Message to Jewry
Zionism is firmly implanted in specific Jewish thought, tradition and ideas, yet never unresponsive to thinking outside its own periphery. Let us, then, ask ourselves today, what is Labor Zionism's present message to Jewry and the wide world, to the new generation of Israelis. First, surely, that Israel's existence, although it be climax of a nation's dream, is not fulfillment enough of the dream; our problem as society and nation is not simply to be or not to be, but how. How to be, that is the question.
The scaffolding and emblems of statehood are important, but not everything. What of quality, of human values, of equal opportunity, of social justice and civil liberty, of democracy, of creativity of labor?
Our Founding Fathers were convinced that a doctrine silent on these problems, setting itself no more than a political and institutional aim, would not constitute a sufficient framework of values to inspire our people, and especially our youth, to action and sacrifice. This, of course, was the historic debate with the Zionist Right, and with classic Revisionism, in particular. At the centre of Right-Wing Zionism is the State as means and end. The motif of Labor Zionism is a society of which the State is essential instrument and expression. Labor Zionism is not just a constitutional formula, it is a human and social aspiration.
That is why the architects of Labor Zionism linked it basically to the ideology of democratic Socialism, which is an amalgam of constitutional freedom and social egalitarianism. It is also, by the way, a criticism of rival doctrines: liberalism for its indifference towards social equality, Communism for its contemptuous attitude to individual freedom all this in an effort to develop a harmony, a social dynamism that would never allow freedom of the individual to become prejudice.
Criticism, too, of aspects of Zionist clericalism which stress ritual at the expense of prophetic morality. Labor Zionism does not decry the Jewish past. Our historic rights are the warrant for regarding the Land of Israel as the only conceivable ambit of the Zionist revolution. But we are the heirs of the past, not its slaves. We take inspiration from it to shape the sense of historic importance and continuity without which we would be an esperanto nation. We are not committed to the precise reproduction of every circumstance, or of the map, or frontiers, of any or all of the bygone Jewish commonwealths. Our priorities and our points of equilibrium differ, are distinct, from what our rivals stand for. The harmonizing of Zionism with social justice and with democratic Socialism has won the day at last. From beginnings that were faint, fragile, precarious, the Movement has risen to decisive responsibility for Jewish destiny in an epoch of catastrophe and redemption, of endless change.
The turning point came forty years ago: after the most intense and virulent attempt to discredit it, Labor Zionism triumphed and, since then, its ideals have, by and large, been the normative values of Jewry, of our Yishuv, of our State.
On an anniversary, there is a tendency to catalogue successes. Our main business, however, is to examine our tenets and see what virtue they possess for the future.
Our Movement has presided over great transformations. I have asked myself often not whether our performance has sufficed, but whether anything else like it ever existed anywhere. There is no other instance of a State quadrupling its population within twenty-five years. Or of an aliya of some million and a half into a society of only six hundred and fifty thousand, moment after each moment a man, woman or child passing from an old world to a new, from ancient memories into new potentialities.
Where else has there been such a transition from austerity to agricultural profusion? Which of the sixty-five new nations established since the end of the Second World War has matched Israel in a switch from a subsistence economy towards sophistication, industrialization and technology? If we have any economic prob1em, it is a tendency of others to flatter us too much. In our discussions with the nine Foreign Ministers of the European Economic Community we are making a desperate effort to persuade them that we are not yet Japan or Scandinavia, not ready yet for the prestige, and burdens, of a fully industrialized status.
The revival of Hebrew not merely as a speech, but as the vehicle of a culture, the making of a new sense of identity with the past, thought in a spirit of evolution rather than of antiquarianism, these are unique. And an objective historian could prove that Labor Zionism played a determinant part in the viable linkage of Israel's linguistic and cultural patrimony to the demands of a new age.
Supremely, what other nation has magnified its educational system nearly sevenfold within a single generation from the 150,000 in our kindergartens, schools and universities in 1948 to the 960,000 today? The rate is not otherwise in housing development, in welfare services, in the originality of certain of our social institutions. Take the kibbutz, the moshav, the Histadrut: three untranslatable words for three forms of unprecedented social organization without parallel in the achievements of any other Labor Movement or national society. Those are three forms of social organization which have the grace of originality, and if one cannot translate them in terms of language, it is because they do not have exact parallel in social frame works created by any other national society. We regard democratic Socialism itself as a dynamic creed that permits experimentation and evolution and diversity in its modes of expression.
High in the record of Labor Zionism is its part in political leadership. The approach has always been empirical, not arbitrary. There is a nexus between our political program and our social ideals. You cannot graft the foreign policy of Gahal onto the social policy of an Israeli Labor Movement.
A society which fails to speak of the neighboring world, and especially the Arab world, in terms of reciprocity, compromise and accommodation cannot be progressive. It is no accident that externally chauvinistic Movements have been reactionary within. The empirical, harmonizing element without which a society cannot be internally progressive must be articulated in foreign policy as well. Thus the doctrine of Labor Zionism at the helm of our security and politics has been to reconcile security with the hope of peace, not so to overstress security that the prospect of peace vanishes or so naively to pursue peace that the prospect of security is renounced. We are now in the middle of the path, avoiding defeatism which would thrust us back to our old vulnerabilities, but also avoiding the kind of unilateral maximalism which might satisfy some of our instincts but would take the option of peace out of our grasp.
A Militant Dialogue with the Left
Well, then, what does Labor Zionism have to say now to Jewry and the world? In the outside world, our main concern is with the revolutionary Left. My belief is that, as time goes on, the New Left will be less and less leftish, but the problem is disturbing anyhow. The revolutionary Left has nearly always been willing to grant Jews individual freedom at the price of surrender of collective identity, although it has hardly been wholehearted and universal in its resistance to anti-Semitism. I have called this frailty neo-anti-Semitism. I have suggested that there is no ideological distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Anti Zionism proclaims that all individual citizens have rights but not the Jews. Neo-anti-Semitism declares that all national groups are entitled to collective and sovereign identity unless they happen to be Jewish. At that point, the claim to national freedom becomes chauvinistic, particularistic, anti-universalistic. The common element in the two brands of anti-Semitism is discrimination. In the classic anti-Semitism discrimination worked on the plain of individual rights, in the new progressive ideology it works against us in the realm of collective rights.
In other words, freedom is never challenged save within the Jewish context. The only nation that has ever had to justify its claim to the trappings and opportunities of sovereignty is Jewry. Today a rampant Palestinianism reflects a certain bias in the Gentile mind against the idea of a distinctive Jewish nationhood. Alright, we are told, if you must exist, then wrap yourself in some other garment, be part of some other organism. Now not only our security but our identity is at stake. The real peril of the last six years is not that others differ from us about where our boundaries should be. It is that, today, when we are already twenty-five years old, all sorts of formulas are being paraded which mirror an apologetic attitude to the very idea of Jewish nationhood and statehood.
Perhaps this would matter little if it were only from outside, but, when it is also from within the Jewish world and Israel itself, when our national existence is no longer axiomatic but something to be explained to explain why France and Japan should be separate nations, or all the African States separate sovereignties? One can argue, historically, that each might have been merged into other groups and combinations, yet the statehood of each is taken for granted.
So, what Labor Zionism must tell the Left is that it cannot hold fast to its tradition against anti-Semitism by trying to balance it with anti-Zionism. Either Jews have equal rights or they do not, and equality of rights has a collective and national, and not simply an individual and civil, content. On this issue a dialogue must be joined and, I think, with unexampled militancy. There is, truly, something bizarre about the need for disputation.
Consider how deep in authenticity is our nationhood. Is not Israel the most national of all the national States, in the sense that one can in no wise, even in fancy, describe it as part of another State, lacking, as it does, the affinities or kin ships which would make that description natural or normal. There are a hundred and thirty-five member States of the United Nations already and only one of them dwells in the same Land, speaks the same language and upholds the same faith as it did three thousand years ago.
Contributions of Israel to the Diaspora
And our message to the Jewish people? So much is said of the contributions of the Diaspora to Israel that we think less than we should of the much more significant contributions of Israel to the Diaspora. First, we gave it renewed faith in its creative vitality on the very morrow of the Second World War, when it might well have been forgiven for dreading that well-spring choked for ever and its resources drained by the agony of the Holocaust. At that moment of humiliation and weakness, the rebirth of Israel lent impulsion to a new attempt at a Jewish career in modern history.
Second, the great act of autonomy on 14 May 1948, taking Jewish history out of its tragic dependence on external caprice and foreign decision and restoring it to Jewish jurisdiction again. By Israel's establishment we fashioned an ambience within which we could in some measure command the tide of events and the course of history. Henceforward the chronicles of Jewry will be very largely as we Jews decide. And, uniquely, Labor Zionism has lit up Israel's statehood with a humane social radiance.
Our people need to be assured of that illumination. In the vast visions and galvanic concepts that glitter in the earlier documents of Zionist and State history, there is a surprising vagueness about the social values that should stamp the Jewish society, and also about its cultural Hebraic roots. Herzlian Zionism partly corrected this. Even so, the idea of a Zionist faith that would not only build a State, but would inject human compassion and the breath of social dignity and egalitarianism into its institutions, that idea, and its realization, are the enlarging dimension of Labor Zionism, without which, not least in the reaction against nationalism after the First World War, I doubt if we should have won over our youth. From the 'thirties on, nationalism was not invariably identified, as it once had been, with progress and idealism. It was the moderating influence of socialist ideals which armed Zionism to cling to its forward-looking program.
Reconciling Vying Claims
Finally, our message to modern Israel. There is a lot of restlessness on our Right. Again the leadership of Labor Zionism is under fire. A few weeks ago, rejected by the electorate seven times running, our rivals seemed to be preparing for an eighth defeat in ritual and appropriate docility. Now, suddenly, there are new shufflings and alignments, the old parties are bidden to array themselves anew on the barrack square. The Right-Wing alignment or Likud is not described as valid in itself, as enjoying an independent and autonomous reason to exist. It is just a reaction to our alignment. The central fact in Israeli society is the Labor alignment. Still, if the assailants of Labor Zionism, by this modality of reaction, achieve more cohesion -which, as our own electoral history could show, does not necessarily give them a brighter hope of electoral prosperity, you have to pay a price for unity at times, as we did, and, I think, wisely. Whatever the outcome, the need will be acuter for us to know exactly what we are and are not, vis-avis not only our own society, but the whole world. Above all, are we going to keep our empirical, balanced, central attitude towards the Arabs? Our attitudes were never dogmatic or fundamentalist. We distinguish between things vital, that must be tenaciously defended, and things only desirable, open to compromise.
There are the expressions of how Labor Zionism resolves the conflict: in 1938 in the Partition discussion, and, on the same theme, in 1947 and 1949. Our view was to seek within the Land of Israel the utmost scope for the development of a Jewish State. Never a monopolistic view of our rights. A Jewish right in the Land, yes. But to say that the history of Land and region excludes all but Jewish history alas, that is not true. We were faced with two peoples within the historic area of Mandatory Palestine. We said that it was feasible to lodge the national aspirations of each in that space. Until the end of the 'thirties and the mid-forties, this co-tenancy was sought by constitutional formulas: a Jewish majority but constitutional parity, said one group, a bi-national State, said another. Nobody suggested the unilateral solution of ceding rights of dominance to one side exclusively. Since 1938, the rational method of reconciling the vying claims has been one of territorial accommodation, of sharing not so much constitutional functions as territorial sovereignty. This underlay the espousal of Partition by the Labor Movement, an espousal rightly without apology, for in their connotation are not Partition and sharing the same, clean, word?
Now, if your social doctrine is that resources, civic responsibilities, must be shared, your international doctrine must be that national rights must also be shared by some valid criterion. We have, therefore, accepted the idea that there is capacity within the classic area of Palestine, as defined in the original Mandate on both sides of the Jordan, for the expression of an Israeli and an Arab nationhood. This creed we shall have to defend, and wholeheartedly.
In August 1970, the Labor Movement, in the Knesset and the Cabinet, accepted the doctrine of a peace treaty to be based upon territorial compromise, with a withdrawal of Israeli forces then, not to the old armistice lines, but to secure and recognized boundaries to be determined in the treaty. This is a true Labor Zionist decision, bringing our own national rights into harmony with the rights of others, minimizing compulsions of permanent control over a national group that is alien to our vocation and our loyalties, our flag and our speech. It is incompatible with Labor Zionism to project, not as a provisional phase but, in perpetuo, the spectacle of a society where power and rights shall be our monopoly. To talk, for example, of eternal control of all the administered areas and let the Arab inhabitants exercise their citizenship somewhere else is not Labor Zionism, but a heretical deviation from it.
To suggest that we are committed by the past to a certain cartographical destiny, and not free to outline our own map, betrays an unscholarly picking and choosing between selected high points of our history. It is rankest folly to say that no Israeli map is a Zionist one, unless it be an anthology and synthesis of sporadic peaks of Jewish political fortunes. The coastal plain, we are told, was more or less subdued under Solomon. And the Negev also, and under Josiah too. And Reuven, Gad and half of Menashe once dwelt in Trans-Jordan. Sinai has only been a part of Egypt for seventy years, but three-score and ten years count little in a world community where few States are yet as old as thirty.
Our Mission still Unfulfilled
In the tradition of Labor Zionism, we are not bound by the past but inspired by it. We claim the right to chart our own map in accord with our own ideals, circumstances and possibilities, just as Solomon charted his. We must decide not merely to be secure ourselves, but also to hold open the prospect of peace and keep at its lowest the number of people of another nation under our authority. It is material whether an Arab community in Israel is marginal to us and to itself or so large as to become masterful.
Labor Zionism must scout as unadulterated nonsense the declaration that Zionism is incompatible with Partition, implying that we have been living an un-Zionist life since 1948. Zionism wholly squares with territorial compromise in the measure that it ensures our national identity and our basic security alike.
Since the new Right-Wing Alignment came into being, we have heard two of its pronouncements which bear forcefully on the style of our national rhetoric and life. One headline vaunted that Israel can seize everything from Sudan to Algeria. Another damned as a waste of money the two billion dollars invested in Government Corporations. The idea that it is relevant, or enlightened, to make a maximal parade of one's strength is no part of Labor Zionism. Civility, a proper understanding of onse1f, avoidance of the strident and the unbridled -these are cardinal to our faith.
I have never known the profit motive exalted to such a pitch as in the second headlines. Profit is not a purely economic value. There are human profits, too. We are charged with profligacy of 134 million pounds spent in establishing our aircraft industry. But think what this means for our security and technological progress! You might as well talk of our 'dissipating' billions of dollars on our educational budget, without a cash dividend, or on Phantoms and Skyhawks. It all smacks of a narrow mercantilism and excessive nationalistic self-assertion.
The anniversary celebration will have been worthwhile, if it steers you to the conclusion that Labor Zionism is a doctrine with mighty triumphs behind it, but its major mission still unfulfilled, still unexhausted.
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