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As it happens, both hawkish Zionists and anti-Zionists tend to dislike this line of reasoning. The former fear it weakens the Jewish claim to Palestine if that claim is deemed to have arisen not out of a millennia-old attachment to the Land of Israel, but simply the need for a postwar sanctuary. The latter see it as a kind of moral trump card, designed to close down all argument.But it is clear that that is precisely what Israel is. It is not now, nor has it ever been the land to which Jews were drawn to move: it was one they didn’t move to when it was possible, and one they have only moved to when all other choices are blocked. Algerian Jews, thanks to the Cremieux Decree of 1870, were French citizens. With Algerian independence in 1962 they were thus able, like the other pieds noirs, to move to France, and few moved to Israel. Moroccan Jews were not French citizens, and so, having no other choice, they went to Israel. And when Soviet Jews were first allowed to leave the USSR, the U.S. was their destination of choice. They were only re-routed to Israel when we shut our doors. We got Gary Shteyngart; Israel got Avigdor Lieberman. And so the story of Zionism is one full of ironies: as a land to be moved to when freely motivated by the Zionist spirit Israel has been an utter failure; as a refuge it has been a success. As a refuge it’s a land to which Jews move in order to be safe and secure. But it’s also the land where in wars and terrorist attacks, more Jews have been killed than in any other nation. None of this at all resembles what Theodor Herzl or Bernard Lazare or Ber Borochov hoped it would be. But history has a way of playing hell with hopes, dreams, and theories. Mitchell Abidor, a contributing writer to Jewish Currents, is the translator and editor of the forthcoming anthology of writings by Victor Serge, Anarchists Never Surrender, as well as the first English translation of Jean Jaurès’ Socialist History of the French Revolution, which will be published by Pluto Press in 2015.
Mitchell Abidor, a contributing writer to Jewish Currents, is a writer and translator living in Brooklyn. Among his books are a translation of Victor Serge’s Notebooks 1936-1947, May Made Me: An Oral History of My 1968 in France, and I’ll Forget it When I Die, a history of the Bisbee Deportation of 1917. His writings have appeared in The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Liberties, Dissent, The New York Review of Books, and many other publications.