Our responsibility for the Jewish future

With the current assault on Israel's legitimacy growing, the Jewish people as a whole are being targeted.

There is a well-known sentiment along the lines of if there had been an Israel 70 years ago, there would have been no Holocaust. While this is undoubtedly true, perhaps for the generations who were born after the Holocaust it requires further explanation.
The 2,000 years of Diaspora left the Jewish people vulnerable to all manner of expulsions, massacres, pogroms and discrimination, culminating in the attempted genocide that was the Holocaust.
ON INTERNATIONAL Holocaust Remembrance Day we commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945. This date is less than three years before the international community overwhelmingly endorsed the reestablishment of Jewish sovereignty, through UN General Assembly Resolution 181, in our ancient homeland.
Unfortunately, some have attempted to paint our connection and right to a state solely on the ashes of the crematoria. This is as much a historic fallacy as it disingenuous. The international community had, through the Mandate for Palestine in 1922, recognized the “historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine” in order to reconstitute “their national home.”
While there is little basis for arguing that the Jewish people’s right to sovereignty in its historic homeland is based solely on the Holocaust, there is a clear basis for the assertion that the Holocaust would not have happened were Jewish sovereignty already existent at the time.
Israel’s Declaration of Independence recalls the Holocaust as “another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of its homelessness by reestablishing in Eretz Yisrael the Jewish state, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew, and confer upon the Jewish people the status of a fully privileged member of the comity of nations.”
However, going further, the declaration recalls the Jewish community of Mandatory Palestine’s assistance in the struggle against the Nazis. This demonstrates an early pre-state commitment to rally in the service of any Jew who is in danger. That commitment has continued unabated.
Apart from opening the doors and welcoming Jewish communities across the globe regardless of their circumstance, many – like those in the Arab world and under totalitarian regimes – were in grave danger. The operation in Entebbe to rescue the Jewish passengers aboard an Air France plane in 1976 is the most famous example of the Jewish state’s commitment to Jews in distress everywhere.
EARLY LAST year, the UK-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research polled 4,000 Diaspora Jews on their attitudes toward Israel. While an impressive 87% felt that Jews are responsible for ensuring “the survival of Israel,” only 31% agreed that the State of Israel has a responsibility for “ensuring the safety of Jews around the world.”
These figures appear to demonstrate the feeling that it is a one-way relationship. According to those polled, there are almost three times the number of Diaspora Jews who feel they are responsible for Israel as the other way around.
There is a Jewish dictum, “Kol Yisrael arevim zeh l’zeh” (all Jews are responsible for each other), that is important to note. While we are proud that Jews in the Diaspora feel a responsibility to Israel, they should be more greatly assured that the State of Israel feels an equally immense responsibility to Jewish people all across the globe.
All of us have a responsibility for the Jewish future, and no less so in our land. While we share the responsibility to defend its borders and physically build the nation, Jews in the Diaspora have a responsibility to defend Israel from those who seek to defame it.
With the current assault on Israel’s legitimacy growing, the Jewish people as a whole are being targeted. It is increasingly easy to demonstrate that the “new” anti-Semitism, remodeled as anti-Zionism, is on many occasions a thinly veiled disguise for “old” anti-Semitism. Those who deny only the Jewish people, out of all the family of nations, the right to selfdetermination single us out.
Unfortunately, among these groups and individuals can also be found many Jews. However, this is hardly unique in a history which has repeatedly shown many Jews being party to their own destruction.
Sixty-six years ago, the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau were finally opened to set the poor wretched remainder of European Jewry free after years of unspeakable horror. Much of the world had turned its back on the Jews of Europe during those darkest of days, and even later refused to let this remnant return to its ancestral home. A sovereign Jewish state would have immediately travelled to the ends of the earth to rescue and fight for its people.
In 2003, IAF planes flew over Auschwitz-Birkenau in a highly symbolic act that perhaps more than any other represents the change from Jewish helplessness to independence.
Unfortunately, it was 59 years too late.
The writer is deputy foreign minister.