Professor: Why Jewish historians should stand behind Zionism

Historians in the News
tags: Zionism



Guy Alroey  is a professor and director of the Ruderman Program for American Jewish Studies at the University of Haifa.

Hasia Diner and Marjorie Feld’s recent op-ed in Haaretz, “Why We’ve Left Zionism Behind,” provoked a stir among the Jewish historians’ community, and rightly so. Their article not only criticizes Israel but presents a very harsh indictment of Zionism, the State of Israel and Israeli society. Prof. Diner’s statements are disturbing not only because of their content but primarily because they were made by such an important and prominent historian. As a historian and a colleague of Prof. Diner’s, collaborating during the past three years as director of the Ruderman Program for American Jewish Studies, I cannot keep silent.

As an Israeli citizen I can accept criticism of Israel, provided it is fair and based on facts. Prof. Diner’s historical arguments are incorrect and unfortunately also unfounded. I fear her political agenda led to a distortion in understanding Zionist and Israeli society’s history, going so far as a complete denial of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state. Her ideological observations on the story of the establishment of Israel brought her to erroneous conclusions and to distort modern Jewish history.

Prof. Diner’s argument that Zionist activities caused the disappearance of Jewish communities around the world is unacceptable and has no historical basis. Migration of millions of Jews in the twentieth century and the Holocaust are the main causes for the demographic shift among the Jewish people. The United States was the preferred destination for millions of Jewish immigrants, and when it closed its gates Jews began to emigrate en masse to Israel. Many of those who did not succeed were murdered in the Holocaust.

With the establishment of Israel North African and Asian Jews were persecuted and faced mortal danger in their Muslim countries; Ethiopian Jews emigrated to Israel because life under the rule of dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam became intolerable; and a million former Soviet Jews emigrated to Israel after the fall of the communist bloc. Zionism was not the cause of the decline of European, Asian and African Jewry, but rather economic hardship and political persecution.

Contrary to Prof. Diner’s claims, Israeli society is not undergoing “haredization.” This claim is baseless and the reality in Israel proves the exact opposite. The Israeli status quo regarding religion and state is consistently breached in favor of the liberal-secular population. ...




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