Israel’s Right to Exist Is Based on More Than the Holocaust – Yossi Alpher

The Forward

Ahmadinejad invoked Holocaust denial with a specific purpose in mind: to undermine Israel’s moral and historic right to exist as a sovereign Jewish nation in its historic homeland. In this regard, he made two points: either the Holocaust never took place, in which case Israel has no moral right at all to exist; or the Holocaust did take place, in which case it is the Germans and the Austrians who should, in penance, host a Jewish state, and not the Muslim world, which did not contribute to the Holocaust. Implicit in these arguments, which are popular in the Arab and Muslim worlds, is the assumption that Israel was created solely, or principally, because of the Holocaust.
In 1922, long before the Holocaust, the Balfour Declaration of 1917 was endorsed by the League of Nations, which appointed Britain the mandatory power and charged it with creating a national home in Palestine for the Jewish people. The early Zionist pioneers had Jewish nationalism in mind, not pogroms. And the international institutions that created Israel recognized the Jews as a people with legitimate national and historic rights, regardless of the Holocaust.
Given the dynamic nature of the Zionist movement during the pre-Holocaust years, I believe the momentum would have led to the creation of a state even had there been no Holocaust. Without in any way denigrating the centrality of the Holocaust in modern Jewish history, we should reply to the Holocaust-deniers by insisting on a more balanced narrative regarding Israel’s formidable legal, national, and moral roots.


The writer is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies.