OpinionIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Zionists took responsibility

The early Zionists' insistence on taking responsibility for their own destiny was key to their success.

Israeli founding father and first prime minister David Ben-Gurion declares independence beneath a large portrait of Theodor Herzl, founder of modern Zionism, at the Tel Aviv Museum, today Independence Hall, on May 14, 1948. Photo by Zoltan Kluger/GPO.
Israeli founding father and first prime minister David Ben-Gurion declares independence beneath a large portrait of Theodor Herzl, founder of modern Zionism, at the Tel Aviv Museum, today Independence Hall, on May 14, 1948. Photo by Zoltan Kluger/GPO.
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski is a senior educator at numerous educational institutions. The author of three books, he teaches Torah, Zionism and Israel studies around the world.

Zionism is one of the most successful political movements in human history. Early Zionist leaders aimed to create a Jewish state. In this state, Jews would always be able to find refuge in times of trouble. Its citizens would act as a light unto the nations and exemplars of moral values. The Jewish people could build a prosperous nation that offered its citizens the opportunity to achieve their dreams.

The Zionists’ dream of a Jewish state seemed impossible. Yet within a comparatively small amount of time in relation to the Jews’ 2,000-year exile, they succeeded.

More than any other, the factor that led to Zionism’s and Israel’s great success was God’s help. But God only helps those who help themselves. The early Zionists’ insistence on taking responsibility for their own destiny was key to their success.

Zionism was built on the principle that the Jewish people need to take responsibility for their own future. As a result, Zionists focused on growth and development. With few resources, early Zionists did whatever they could with whatever they had. They advocated politically and began building the infrastructure for a state years before they could declare independence.

The Jews didn’t want to wage war against any enemies but were left with no choice.

Zionists refused to look to others to secure their own future, making self-determination the priority for the Jewish people. As Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion said, “Our future does not depend on what the Gentiles will say but on what the Jews will do.”

Israeli President Isaac Herzog echoed Ben-Gurion’s comments at the event celebrating the 125th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland.

“From the moment of its establishment, Zionism was a movement that championed shared responsibility for our destiny,” Herzog said. “And today, now that the mission rests on our shoulders, we must bear it together. Only together. Together shall we follow the path of the visionary of our state and Zionism’s founding generation; together shall we believe in Zionism and be proud of it; together shall we choose responsibility every day and keep our country and our people safe.”

Zionism and the State of Israel have always sought to move forward by taking responsibility. At the opposite end of the spectrum was the Palestinian drive to wipe Israel off the map by refusing to take their destiny into their own hands. They preferred to blame others for their situation. Their refusal to take responsibility for their own destiny has been key to their failure. Playing the victim card as an excuse impedes growth. Zionism did the opposite. It used the historical victimization of the Jews to inspire the Jewish people to take responsibility and move forward.

In an absurd perversion of rationality, the Palestinians and their Arab allies refused the United Nations’ 1947 offer of an independent state and chose to wage war against the Jews. Upon losing the war, they didn’t reverse course and sign a peace deal with the Jews. They waged more unsuccessful wars and a 75-year campaign of terrorism against the Jewish state. Instead of recognizing the foolishness of their ways, they combined playing the victim and using violence.

Palestinian nationalism is characterized more by demands for the Jewish people’s land and the destruction of the Jews themselves than the Palestinians’ own advancement. As Hamas states in the preamble to its own charter: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”

It further states: “[Peace] initiatives and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement. … Those conferences are no more than a means to appoint the infidels as arbitrators in the lands of Islam. … There is no solution for the Palestinian problem except by jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility. … The day the enemies usurp part of Muslim land, jihad becomes the individual duty of every Muslim. In the face of the Jews’ usurpation, it is compulsory that the banner of jihad be raised.”

Unable to achieve their objective of destroying Israel and the Jewish people, the Palestinians have attempted to galvanize public sympathy for their cause by blaming the Jewish state for their constant failures. This has doomed them to eternal failure.

The contrast between Zionism’s ideal of taking responsibility and the Palestinians’ refusal to take responsibility is the primary reason Western nations sympathize with the Palestinians but engage with Israel. The nations of the world pity the Palestinians and admire the Israelis.

To understand Zionism, the value of taking responsibility for one’s destiny must be understood. After the Holocaust, it would have been easy for the Jewish people to blame the Western world for either conducting, supporting or ignoring the genocide. The Zionist leaders understood that playing the victim card would earn the world’s pity but not their support, and to achieve their own state, the Jewish people needed support, not pity.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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