crisis of zionism

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By SAMUEL KILSZTAJN*

Harassed by Europeans, in their survival instinct, the Jews landed and occupied Palestine; and Muslim Palestinians, in their survival instinct, fight against the State of Israel

In the early 1950s, a large contingent of Jewish Holocaust survivors who had immigrated to the newly created State of Israel left the country. This exodus, which at the time motivated protest demonstrations in the Israeli Parliament, was recently analyzed by Ori Yehudai, in Leaving Zion: Jewish emigration from Palestine and Israel after World War II.

In 2022 I published a book on Amazon, Returnees, about the saga of thousands of Israelis who, in this period and by fate, ended up anchoring in the lands of Brazil without ever having heard that there was a country with that name. Returnees because they were Europeans who were returning to Europe, the scene of the Holocaust. You returnees who landed in Brazil were Jews from Central and Eastern Europe, the vast majority of them Poles, who had survived the Holocaust in Nazi concentration camps or in Siberia and elsewhere in the Soviet Union. In every city and shtetl Polish, in each of the families, nine out of ten Jews had been exterminated during the Second World War. The survivors lost their parents, homes, belongings, cities, homelands and references and, in the post-war period, were housed in refugee camps in Germany, Austria and Italy.

Emigrated to Israel to build the Jewish home and, unfortunately, found themselves involved in conflicts with Muslim Palestinians, wars and privations. After a few years, with no prospect of getting out of that situation, equipped with Israeli passports, they left Israel to immigrate to America, which constituted an uncomfortable anti-Zionist posture, a betrayal, a aliyah in reverse.

Anchored by the Immigration of Refugees Act of 1948, 150 Jewish survivors immigrated to the United States between 1948 and 1952 (this number includes Jews who emigrated directly from Europe and Jews who emigrated from Israel). The route of the Israelis on their way to America passed through Vienna or Paris and ended in Munich, more precisely in the last Jewish Refugee Camp operating in German territory, Foehrenwald.

But, on August 7, 1953, President Eisenhower signed the new law for the immigration of refugees, which favored the immigration of Italians, Greeks and residents of communist countries; and restricted the entry of Jews into the United States. With that, the returnees ended up being stranded in Europe and, after an international scandal articulated by the United States, Germany and Israel, they were able to land in Brazilian lands. The disembarkation of the Israelis, at the time, caused protests from the Brazilian Jewish community, which requested clarification from the Israeli government about its contradictory policy.

The immigration of Israelis in Brazil, as well as the immigration of other Holocaust survivors in the post-war period, is not recorded by historians and Jewish institutions in Brazil. And this erasure continues until our days, because whoever controls the present controls the past. The Confederação Israelita do Brasil – CONIB, on its website about the history of Jewish immigration in the country, goes straight from “1933-1939: About 17.500 Jews entered the country” to the “1950s: At the end of the 1950s, Hungarian Jews and Egyptians arrived, who settled mainly in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo”.

The erasure undertaken by historians and Jewish institutions in Brazil about the arrival of thousands of Israelis in the 1950s, traitors to Zionism, constitutes a policy of silencing this immigration that was so uncomfortable for the Jewish community that was markedly Zionist in the post-war period. In addition to this immigration not being recorded by historians, biographies (and autobiographies) of eminent people omit their “passage” through Israel. One might ask these historians and Jewish institutions what these traitors of the 1950s could tell us about life in the State of Israel in its formation. What could these people of the book learn from them to guide them in this moment of crisis for Zionism?

In May 2023, I was approached by an Israeli writer, Shmuel Yored, who asked me to review his book with the title of Jaffa. When I read his manuscript, I was appalled, completely amazed, because he had simply appropriated all my bibliographic production and life history. I was paralyzed, without action, I didn't know what I should do and, finally, I decided not to do anything.

After a month, the author contacted me by phone and asked if I had liked the text. I took a while to respond and, without commenting on his taking over my life story, said that I enjoyed the piece. Shmuel Yored then asked if I would be willing to edit and publish his book on Amazon; and I answered yes, because, quoting the author, humanity is an adventure.

Shmuel Yored's text, we could say, is radical. The book clarifies that the Jewish State, in the post-war period, was created in order to stop the millennial anti-Semitism spread in Christian societies, but, as a result, it triggered anti-Semitism among Muslims, who until then lived peacefully with the Jews. Harassed by Europeans, in their survival instinct, the Jews landed and occupied Palestine; and Muslim Palestinians, in their survival instinct, fight against the State of Israel. They are, therefore, two peoples fighting for survival and for the preservation of their self-esteem. Shmuel Yored asks “Is it legitimate to use the oppression that European Jews suffered during the Holocaust to justify the oppression of the Muslim Palestinian people?”

The creation of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948 is celebrated annually by Palestinians on May 15 as the Day of Catastrophe, al-Nakba. The Jewish dream has become the Palestinian's nightmare. As Jews left Europe's refugee camps, Palestinians left their homes and cities to flock to refugee camps along Israel's borders with neighboring Arab countries. Isaac Deutscher wrote that the Arabs had to pay the price for the crimes that European civilization committed against the Jews at Auschwitz.

The banning of Arabs on the occasion of the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967 and the first settlements of Jewish villages in the West Bank and Gaza, in the midst of highways patrolled by the Israeli army, were works from the “left”; and the current advance of the right in the State of Israel is the culmination of the Zionist project.

Israelis wanted to believe that the "very unfortunately necessary" and imperious violence undertaken against native Palestinians, which undermined the humanist and pacifist background of Diaspora Jews, would be a topical act readily forgotten by Palestinians and Jews alike. They wanted to believe that the Palestinians expelled from their homeland would be welcomed with open arms and immediately absorbed by their Arab cousins ​​in neighboring countries and that, therefore, everything would quickly be forgotten, definitively resolved and erased from memory. And, to this day, both Israelis and the vast majority of diaspora Jews try in vain to abstract the Palestinian question from their vision plan.

According to Nir Evron of Tel Aviv University, when an internationally supported Palestinian civil rights movement starts in earnest, as it certainly will, things in this country will be very difficult for some time. The exact results are difficult to predict, but whatever the long-term hope for this country, there is no avoiding this path.

The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network – IJAN, was formed in 2008 and is committed to the liberation of the Palestinian people, the right of return for refugees and the end of Israeli colonization of historic Palestine. IJAN supports full Palestinian self-determination and the right to resist occupation. In 2014, on the occasion of the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza, Hajo Meyer, Auschwitz survivor and IJAN member, and 32 other Holocaust survivors, alongside two hundred descendants of survivors, signed a document condemning Israeli racism and dehumanization of the Palestinian people. The document ends with, Holocaust "Never again for anyone."

*Samuel Kilsztajn Samuel Kilsztajn is a full professor at PUC-SP. Author, among other books, of Shulem, Returnees and Yiddish (https://amzn.to/3ZkegH7).


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