Zionism and Israel
Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi talks about five crucial concepts: Jewishness, Jews, Judaism, Zionism and Israel. He says, “The settlers who came to Palestine in the late 19th century had clear ideas about creating a state.” He gives the historical background for how Israel came into being. Theodor Herzl, often considered the father of Zionism, was an assimilated European Jew. The Dreyfus Affair was a great shock to Herzl and convinced him that Jews must have a state. He died in 1904 but his followers formed an alliance with Britain leading to the Balfour Declaration in 1917. “Israel,” Beit-Hallahmi says, “is not a normal nation-state. Its mission is to maintain Zionism. Those in Israel who are not Jews are a problem. Zionism doesn’t know what to do with non-Jews in its midst.” For many Jews around the world Israel has largely replaced Judaism as to how Jewish identity is defined. Beit-Hallahmi dissects the central Zionist slogan: A land without people for a people without a land.” He agrees with Maxime Rodinson that Israel is a settler colonial state. He says the Holocaust is used “very cynically” by Israel.
Interview by David Barsamian.
Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi is an Israeli scholar and author of The Israeli Connection: Who Israel Arms and Why and Original Sins: Reflections of the History of Zionism and Israel. He taught at Haifa University.