There is some controversy over Einstein’s political views especially on the issue of Palestine and the creation of a Jewish State.
Many Zionists claim Einstein as one of their own. Einstein, however, was a pacifist, a universalist and abhorred nationalism.
The recently published book, Einstein on Israel and Zionism: His Provocative Ideas About the Middle East by Fred Jerome (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2009) has brought Einstein’s political views on the Middle East back into the spotlight.
The evidence of Einstein’s position on Palestine and Zionism is best seen in his own words and actions on the subject.
For example Einstein made a presentation to the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, which was examining the Palestine issue in January 1946 and argued against the creation of a Jewish State.1
Here is a quote from Einstein’s testimony before Judge Hutcheson, the American Chairman of the Committee:
Judge Hutcheson: It has been told to our committee by the Zionists that the passionate heart of every Jew will never be satisfied until they have a Jewish state in Palestine. It is contended, I suppose, that they must have a majority over the Arabs. It has been told to us by the Arab representatives that the Arabs are not going to permit such condition as that, they [sic] will not permit having themselves converted from a majority to a minority.
Dr. Einstein: Yes.
Judge Hutcheson: I have asked these various persons if it is essential to the right or the privilege of the Jews to go to Palestine, if it is essential to real Zionism that a setup be fixed so that the Jews have a Jewish state and a Jewish majority without regard to the Arab view. Do you share that point of view, or do you think the matter can be handled on any other basis?
Dr. Einstein: Yes, absolutely. The state idea is not according to my heart. I cannot understand why it is needed. It is connected with many difficulties and narrow-mindedness. I believe it is bad.
Judge Hutcheson: Isn’t it spiritual and ethical B I do not mean this particular Zionist movement, I do not mean the idea of insisting that a Jewish state must be created isn’t it anachronistic?
Dr. Einstein: In my opinion, yes. I am against it …1
Albert Einstein wrote in a letter to American Friends of the Fighters for the Freedom of Israel shortly after the 1948 Deir Yassin massacre and referred to the Irgun, led by Menachem Begin later a Prime Minister of Israel, and the Stern Gang, where Yitzhak Shamir also a future Prime Minister of Israel was a member, as terrorist organizations and refused to support these “misled and criminal people.”2
Albert Einstein, Sidney Hook, Hannah Arendt and twenty-five other prominent Jews, in a letter to the New York Times (December 4, 1948), condemned Menachem Begin’s and Yitzhak Shamir’s Likud party as “fascist” and espousing “an admixture of ultra-nationalism, religious mysticism and racial superiority.”3
In 1950 Einstein published the following statement on the question of Zionism. This speech was originally given to the National Labor Committee for Palestine, in New York, on April 17, 1938 but republished by Einstein after Israel’s creation.
I should much rather see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish state. Apart from the practical considerations, my awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish state with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power no matter how modest. I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain – especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks, against which we have already had to fight without a Jewish state.4
Einstein also turned down the presidency of the state of Israel.5 In Albert Einstein: A Biography (Viking, 1997), Albrecht Folsing shares the following revelation about the offer to Einstein to become Israel’s second president: “While Ben-Gurion was awaiting Einstein’s decision, he asked his assistant, the future president Yitzak Navon, over a cup of coffee: ‘Tell me what to do if he says yes! I have had to offer the post to him because it’s impossible not to. But if he accepts we’re in for trouble.6
Einstein wrote to his stepdaughter Margot after declining the presidency of Israel. He said, “If I were to be president, sometime I would have to say to the Israeli people things they would not like to hear.”7
Einstein did participate in the Sixteenth Zionist Congress in 1929. The World Zionist Organization (WZO) mentioned and described Einstein in a document published in 1997. It is rather revealing and the WZO ought to know who was and who was not a Zionist.
The Sixteenth Zionist Congress (1929) decided on the establishment of the Jewish Agency for Israel, which would be a joint body of the World Zionist Organization and those known as “non-Zionists” in the belief that all Jews wished to participate in building the National Home. Upon conclusion of the Congress, Board of the Jewish Agency convened. Of its 224 members, 112 were Zionists (members of the World Zionist Organization) including Prof. Chaim Weizmann who was elected as President of the Jewish Agency, Nahum Sokolow, Menahem Ussishkin, Shemaryahu Levin, David Ben-Gurion, Rabbi Uziel; the 112 “non-Zionist” members included Louis Marshall, Shalom Asch, Albert Einstein, Leon Blum, and members of the Rothschild family.8
To quote a commenter on Horowitz’s article: “Einstein’s opposition to Israel was widely known and reported on during his life. In fact, the myth of Einstein’s support of Israel was born the day after Einstein’s death in his obituary in The New York Times, which shamelessly wrote that he championed the establishment of the Jewish state. This contradicted decades of reporting from the ‘Paper of Record.’ Jerome provides some examples, including a 1930 article headlined ‘Einstein attacks British Zion Policy,’ a 1938 article stating Einstein was ‘Against Palestine State’ and a 1946 article stating ‘Einstein Bars Jewish State.’”9
It is clear that Albert Einstein did not support political Zionism and opposed a Jewish State based on an ethnic or racial basis. His political views were remarkably consistent and supported universal human rights. He was opposed to war and chauvinistic ethnic nationalism. Today Einstein is a revered as a political and scientific icon. However, many unfortunately forget his wise words on the issue of Palestine and its conflict with political Zionism.
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