Einstein and Zionism

Einstein and Zionism

Einstein was a very strong cultural Zionist, who believed that the creation of a national homeland for Jews (read homeland, not state) could awaken a revitalization of Jewish culture in the face of anti-Semitism. However, he, like many other Jewish intellectuals of his era, was careful to maintain the absolute primacy of moral and social equality with Arabs- the universalistic, humanistic ethos- over any kind of fanatical belief in the moral superiority of the Jewish people. His Zionist legacy is much contested right now, because he did publicly support Zionist efforts on several occasions, traveling to America in the 1930s to raise money for the cause.

(Einstein and his wife, Zionist and future president of Israel Chaim Weizmann and his wife, Menachem Ussishkin and Ben-Zion Mossinson, NYC, 1921)

“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. 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 strongly, even without a Jewish state. … If external necessity should after all compel us to assume this burden, let us bear it with tact and patience.”

– Albert Einstein, 1938 speech ‘Our Debt to Zionism’

“[the Zionist] movement [must] avoid the danger of degenerating into a blind nationalism. In my opinion, we must endeavor above all that psychological understanding and an honorable will towards cooperation take the place of resentment towards the Arabs. The overcoming of this difficulty will, in my opinion, be the touchstone that our community has a right to existence in the higher sense. I must unfortunately openly acknowledge that the attitude of our [Zionist] officialdom, as well as the majority of public expressions in this connection, appear to me to leave much to be desired.

– letter to Heinrich York-Steiner, November 19 1929

‘The most important aspect of our [Israel’s] policy must be our ever-present, manifest desire to institute complete equality for the Arab citizens living in our midst … The attitude we adopt toward the Arab minority will provide the real test of our moral standards as a people.”

– letter to Zvi Lurie, January 5, 1955

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