Yitzhak Rabin on the Centrality of Zionism to Israel's Existence

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Yitzhak Rabin on the Centrality of Zionism to Israel's Existence

Speech

By: Yitzhak Rabin

Date: November 11, 1975

Source: Rabin, Yitzhak. Major Knesset Debates: 1948–1981. Lanham, Md: University Press of America, 1975.

About the Author: Yitzhak Rabin served in the Israeli Defense Force for twenty-seven years, reaching the position of IDF Chief of Staff. After his military service, Rabin served as the Israeli ambassador to the United States. In 1974, after joining the Labor Party, Rabin was elected Prime Minister and held the position until 1977. The Labor party regained the majority in 1992 and Rabin was once again elected Prime Minister. In 1994, Rabin, along with Yassar Arafat and Shimon Peres, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for the Oslo Declaration of Principles. In 1995, Rabin was assassinated after attending a rally in Tel Aviv.

INTRODUCTION

As the nineteenth century came to a close, anti-Semitism became apparent throughout Europe and fueled the movement for the creation of a Jewish homeland, which became referred to as Zionism. Following the assassination of the Tsar, Russian political problems were often blamed on Jews, making them targets of reprisal violence. In France, the Dreyfus affair, in which a Jewish army captain was convicted of treason based on forged evidence, highlighted the institutionalized anti-Semitism in France. Jewish writers such as Leon Pinsker and Theodore Herzl began to assert that Jews would continue to be the target of discrimination wherever they remained a minority. In 1896, Herzl published Der Judenstaat, or the State of the Jews, which declared that the condition of the Diaspora, or Jews residing throughout the world, would continue to deteriorate. Under Herzl's leadership, the first Zionist Congress met in August 1897 and the goal to gain a Jewish home was established. Chaim Weizmann led the Zionist movement after Herzl's death and met with British leaders in the hopes of gaining British support for a homeland. By 1907, Weizmann had visited Palestine and concluded that the region should be colonized by the Jews. As such, a trickle of immigrants began to move into the region.

During this time, Western nations viewed Palestine as a region that lacked national settlement. The approximately 200,000 Arabs that resided in the region lacked a formal government structure and were ethnically identified based on language rather than national identity. At the start of World War I, Britain negotiated policies with both Arabs and the Jews who resided in the Middle East. The 1917 Balfour Declaration stated the British sympathy for Zionist goals and British intent to sponsor a national home for the Jews. The British troops that occupied the Middle East allowed Britain to become the dominant power following the defeat of Germany and Turkey in World War I. At the San Remo Conference, which was drafted in 1920 and adopted by the League of Nations in 1922, the Principal Allied Powers divided the Middle East using self-interest to determine their individual country's mandates. While the Western powers carved up the region, Jews began to immigrate in larger numbers to Palestine. From 1919–1931, the total Jewish population increased from 60,000 to 175,000.

During the period preceding World War II, Arabs became increasingly resistant to the increase in Jewish immigrants to Palestine. After a series of violent conflicts resulted in the deaths of Britons, Jews, and Arabs, the British government published the White Paper of 1939, which established a new policy for Britain toward Zionism. The white paper asserted that Britain sought an independent Palestinian state, governed by Jews and Arabs who shared authority. Zionists perceived the paper as a betrayal on the part of British policy makers and began to pursue support from the United States where many of the Jewish Diaspora resided. As World War II came to an end, Zionists gained popular support for a Jewish state as the details of the Holocaust became publicized. In addition, Britain and the United States recognized that the oil-rich Middle East would play an important role in the looming Cold War with the Soviet Union. By 1948, the United Nations Resolution 181 terminated the Mandate for Palestine, by which the British has administered the region. As a result, the Jewish inhabitants of the region declared their independence and the statehood of Israel. Arab nations rejected the state of Israel while western powers acknowledged the new country.

After the British left the nascent state, the surrounding Arab nations—including Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia—declared war on Israel. Invasions by Egyptian, Syrian, and Jordanian forces began the Israeli War of Independence. The armistice for this war, signed in 1949, partitioned additional land to Israel than originally agreed to by the United Nations resolution. By 1967, the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was in full force. Many Arab countries received military and financial support from the Soviet Union, while the United States, Britain, and France continued to support Israel. The six-day war occurred in June 1967 as a response to the actions of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who closed the straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping and expelled UN peacekeepers. In response, Israel launched attacks on the Egyptian air force and began an occupation of Sinai and Gaza, as well as the West Bank and Golan Heights. Peace was established through UN Resolution 242. However, many Arabs, including those within the Palestinian Liberation Organization, rejected the terms of the resolution. As a result, on October 6, 1973, Egyptian and Syrian forces launched an attack on Israel during the Jewish holy day of atonement, Yom Kippur. Both the United States and the Soviet Union aided in supplying their respective allies with arms. In an effort to respond to U.S. and western support of Israel during this war, the oil-producing nations under OPEC reduced their production of oil and halted their commerce with those nations—thus resulting in the Arab oil embargo of 1973.

PRIMARY SOURCE

Mr. Speaker, distinguished Knesset, yesterday the majority at the U.N. Assembly, serving Arab hostility, voted against the Jewish people, Zionism and the State of Israel. The majority at the Assembly approved resolutions which are factually and historically false, condemning Israel as a "racist state in occupied Palestine," and defining Zionism as "racism and racial discrimination." The prologue to the resolutions calls on all countries "to oppose that racist and imperialist ideology." Prior to that the Assembly approved two resolutions calling for the participation of the terrorist organization known as the PLO in the Geneva Conference and the establishment of a committee to supervise the implementation of those hostile resolutions.

By those three resolutions … the majority at the Assembly extended political support to the enemies of the Jewish people and the State of Israel who seek to undermine its moral, ideological and legal basis. By condemning Zionism as a supposedly racist theory, the people who initiated the resolution seek to deprive Israel of its right to exist, which is the result of the independent liberation movement of the Jewish people—Zionism.

We must not delude ourselves. This is not an abstract ideological debate, but a significant attack with clear political objectives, and as such it is unprecedented in the history of the struggle we have been engaged in for several decades. The aim of the Arab representatives and their supporters is to set Israel outside the pale and invalidate its very existence in order to prepare the political conditions for intensifying the struggle against Israel as an independent country and prepare the ground for the establishment of an Arafat-led state on Israel's ruins …

The resolutions … are barren in terms of realpolitik. Their content and timing stand in complete contradiction to the positive trend embodied in the Interim Agreement between Israel and Egypt. Progress towards peace and the solution of the conflict in our region, including the Palestinian problem, cannot be attained in the way indicated by the U.N. Assembly. Progress towards peace and the solution of the various problems is possible, but only while respecting the rights, existence, vocations and security of Israel. We will continue to follow that path despite bitter disappointments and the selfish appeasement of wealth and oil-producers.

What regimes rule in the Arab countries which imitated the resolution condemning Zionism and what moral right do they have to decide on matters of human and national rights? They are all countries which, since becoming independent, have been characterized by persecution, torture and even the destruction of minorities and ethnic groups within Assyrian minority. In recent times Iraq has tormented the Kurdish minority, causing massive bloodshed. In Sudan the black tribes to the south may have been slaughtered for years. In Egypt the Coptic minority has been accorded second-class status, and everyone remembers the treatment meted out to the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip when it was under Egyptian rule. Syria has always gloried in persecuting its minorities. Saudi Arabia still trades in slaves. In Lebanon the Maronite Christians are still fighting to survive. That is the true portrait and the moral mandate of the Arab countries which initiated those resolutions at the U.N. Assembly.

As for the PLO, which is invited to give its views on bringing peace to the Middle East, let it suffice to quote a few passages from its Manifesto:

"The liberation of Palestine is a national duty in order to repel the imperialist Zionist invasion from the great Arab homeland and purge Palestine of Zionist existence." "Claims as to the historical or spiritual bond between the Jews and Palestine are incompatible with historical truths." "Zionism is merely a virulently racist, aggressive movement which is expansionist-colonialist in its aims and fascist and Nazi in its means."

Who supported this base initiative? An examination of the list of countries which supported the resolution condemning Zionism reveals that it includes several countries whose regimes are dictatorial or totalitarian and whose histories are full of tyranny, repression and the disregard for human rights and dignity. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the resolutions make no mention of human, religious and social freedoms, knowing the initiators' own deficiencies in those areas.

We may draw encouragement from the countries which opposed the anti-Israel initiative … each one of which has a past which is distinguished by the ceaseless struggle for human freedom and national rights. They are enlightened democracies which have on more than one occasion fought against attempts to subordinate and subject man and society in the name of racist and reactionary theories … Once again it has been proved that the attitude of societies and people to the Jewish people is one of the touchstones of their enlightenment.

This is not the first time that November 10 has marked a significant event in the history of the Jewish people. Yesterday was the anniversary of Kristallnacht (the pogrom of 9 November 1938) in Nazi Germany … It is also the date on which the majority in the U.N. struck a mortal blow at the U.N. itself … By supporting this Arab scheme the U.N. has lost whatever moral and political validity it had, becoming the arena for clashes which have nothing to do with the principles and ideals for which it was established. Israel will not be the victim of these resolutions. It is the U.N. which has let itself beyond the pale … of universal principles….

There is not greater historical and moral distortion than what happened last night at the U.N. Assembly. The nation which throughout the generations has been the victim of racist persecution which is unparalleled in the history of mankind was once again the object of despicable attacks by benighted regimes. There is no greater and crueler irony than branding Zionism, which represents the struggle of an ancient nation for freedom in its land from the time our ancestors left ancient Egypt to this very day, and the nation which has contributed more than any other to the values of human freedom, as racist.

This requires the Jewish people in the diaspora and Israel to draw some basic conclusions. I call on the Jewish people in the diaspora to stand up to the plot against us, because Zionism, Judaism, the State of Israel and the Jewish people are all one and the same. At the basis of Jewish belief lies the link with the Land of Israel and the return to Zion … I call on the Jewish communities to make a greater effort to assure the welfare and future of the nation and State of Israel. I call on the entire Jewish nation to deepen Jewish consciousness, cultivate Jewish values and traditions and identify fully with the Jewish state. Today more than ever all Jews are responsible for one another. I call on Jewish youth throughout the world to immigrate to Israel and join us in fulfilling the Zionist vision.

I call on the nation in Zion to rise to the challenge before us. The attacks on Zionism and the Jewish state oblige us to reexamine our way of life and increase private and public efforts to fortify the State of Israel. Today more than ever we must rise above individual selfishness and comfort and devote ourselves completely to the objectives of Zionism. To those who rose up against us yesterday at the U.N., I say: we are no longer a helpless community. We are no longer a weak and frightened people. We are no longer despairing and hopeless. Something has happened since Kristallnacht. The Jewish nation now stands erect. The State of Israel has come into being. The State of Israel is firm, confident and strong. The State of Israel and its nation have decided once and for all to ensure that henceforth and forever "Israel shall dwell in safety in its land."

SIGNIFICANCE

In 1973 and 1974, the United Nations began to adopt a series of resolutions that highlighted the experience of Palestinian refugees, such as the first report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Population of the Occupied Territories. In addition, the international body called for a UN-sponsored conference on peace in the Middle East. In 1974, the Palestinian Liberation Organization was invited to participate in the plenary meetings and join in the UN assembly as a full observer. PLO leader Yassar Arafat delivered his "gun and olive branch" speech to the UN General Assembly and November 29, 1974 was designated as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. On November 10, 1975, the UN adopted resolution 3379, passing with a vote of seventy-two in favor, thirty five against, and thirty-two abstentions. Within the text of this resolution, Zionism is equated to racism.

UN resolution 3379 was revoked on December 16, 1991 by UN resolution 4684, the complete text of which reads, "The general assembly decides to revoke the determination contained in its resolution 3379 (XXX) of 10 November 1975." Israel insisted on the revocation of the 1975 resolution before it would participate in the Madrid Peace Conference.

FURTHER RESOURCES

Books

Brenner, Michael. Zionism: A Brief History. Princeton, N.J.: Markus Weiner Publishers, 2003.

Sacher, H. M. A History of Israel. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1979.

Periodicals

Bennis, Phyllis. "The United Nations and Palestine: Partition and its Aftermath." Arab Studies Quarterly (June 22, 1997).

Ovendale, Ritchie. "The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict." Historian (January 1, 2002).

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Yitzhak Rabin on the Centrality of Zionism to Israel's Existence

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