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How Zionism and Americanism created a free, democratic Israel

At a time of such division, it has never been more timely to look back at the history of Zionism. “Top Story” with Jonathan Tobin and guest Rick Richman, Ep. 108

At a time of such great division within Israel and throughout the Jewish world, nothing could be timelier than a look at lessons to be drawn from Zionist history, says JNS editor-in-chief Jonathan Tobin. Tobin is joined by author Rick Richman, who discusses his new book, And None Shall Make Them Afraid: Eight Stories of the Modern State of Israel. Richman says his book, which speaks of the lives of eight key figures of 20th-century Jewish history, explains how two compatible ideologies—Zionism and Americanism—helped create a free and democratic modern-day State of Israel.

Among the stories he tells is one that debunks the myth that the infamous Dreyfus Affair was the key factor that led Theodor Herzl to found the modern Zionist movement. Another is that of the meeting and correspondence between Chaim Weizmann and Prince Feisal, the Sharif of Mecca and the leader of the Arab Revolt during World War I, which could be described as the forerunner of the 2020 Abraham Accords.

Richman also speaks of the way Americans like Justice Louis Brandeis and writer Ben Hecht helped establish both Zionism in the United States and provided a model for activism. More sobering episodes concern Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s prophetic warnings about the Holocaust and the lessons about the plight of the Jews that were learned by future Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir when she attended the 1938 Evian Conference, where the countries of the world abandoned European Jews to their fate. He also talks about the importance of Israeli diplomat Abba Eban’s eloquence on the world stage and how those qualities were no help to him in politics.

Lastly, he cites current Israeli cabinet member Ron Dermer, who was born in the United States and exemplifies the common values and aspirations of the two nations. While he expresses confidence in the future of Israeli democracy, Richman says it was vital now for Israelis and Jews to unite to face the true existential threat of a nuclear Iran.

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