Chesed le’ummim chattath, warns King Solomon: “The kindness of nations is a sin offering” (Proverbs XIV, 34).
By the end of 1945, the full dimensions of what had happened to the Jewish population of Europe were becoming apparent. No one has exact numbers, of course, but most demographers and historians have agreed that roughly six million people, men, women, and children, had died of exposure, famine, epidemic disease, exhaustion, and murder through all means, ranging from savage beatings to shootings to gas. Given the unsanitary conditions of the ghettos and camps into which they had been crowded as well as the intentional malnutrition, all of the deaths had been the result of deliberate policies. These policies were set in place and relentlessly pursued by one of the most advanced and cultured nations of Europe: Germany.
The horrific campaign which has come to be known as the “Holocaust” (the Germans referred to it as die Endlösung der jüdischen Frage, “the final solution of the Jewish question”) was only made possible by the march of conquest which carried the National Socialist ideology, by the end of 1942, across Europe from the English Channel to the Caucasus. It was not done without the acquiescence — when not the active support — of a substantial part of the conquered populations. The result was a near-universal sense of shame and guilt.
Two years later in San Francisco, temporary headquarters of the newly formed United Nations, the nations of the world found a chance to make an amends of sorts. The British Empire, exhausted from the war and from the mounting chaos in the empire’s “crown jewel,” India, reacted to the vicious civil war which had broken out between the Jewish and Arab residents of mandatory Palestine (in which the British had been, as the saying goes, “neutral on the side of the Arabs”). They decided to give up the mandate, and the UN voted 33 to 13 with 10 abstentions to partition Palestine and create a Jewish state.
A glance at the list of those who voted “for” is instructive: Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, Belgium Denmark, France, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, Belorussian SSR, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Ukrainian SSR, USSR, Liberia, South Africa, and the Philippines.
Of these, the Communist-dominated states (the Soviet Union’s three votes, with Poland and Czechoslovakia) voted in favor because they hoped to use the new state of Israel, then dominated by Socialist parties, as a “wedge” into the British-dominated Middle East. The United States, which would have abstained, voted in favor only because of the personal intervention of President Truman. This was prompted by an old friend and former business associate from Missouri, Edward Jacobson. The rest (certainly the other Europeans) engaged in an act of chesed, kindness, as the chattath, the “sin offering,” for what they had allowed to happen.
It seems that few of them would repeat that vote today.
If we examine the evolving official policies of the various European countries towards the state they created — coupled with the anti-Semitism mounting with frightening rapidity in all those countries over the past two decades – it’s evident that the gift of the UN would not today be proffered. The guilt and shame felt so intensely in 1947 seems largely to have dissipated, and the state which it created is now considered an imperialist, neo-colonialist plant. (Have you ever noticed that the term “Middle Eastern” is routinely used to refer exclusively to countries dominated by Arabic-speaking Muslims? Israel is ignored, because Israel is deemed to be a “foreign” implant in the region).
For the past 65-plus years, the leaders of the state of Israel have acquiesced in the claim that their legitimacy rests somehow in recognition by the United Nations; it is long past time that they abandon this fiction. The nation of Israel (as opposed to the state) is, after all, the ‘am levadad yishkon uva-goyim lo yithchashav (“people which dwells apart and is not counted among the nations”; Numbers XXIII,9). Their claim on the Holy Land rests on a much older agreement, a covenant executed at Sinai 3,326 years ago. That agreement is still in force, though far too many Israelis would prefer to ignore its existence, or would seek to modify its terms to match “modern” (i.e., foreign, non-Jewish) ideals. But the terms of the agreement are not subject to modification (cf. Deuteronomy IV,2 and XIII,1).
Successive governments of Israel over the past 21 years have painted themselves into a corner, adopting a “peace process” which from the beginning has been entirely unilateral. It has been embraced with unseemly enthusiasm by the very nations who voted for Israel’s existence in 1947, urged upon Israel even though anyone with eyes to see knows that it is a path to suicide. For eleven of the thirteen “no” votes were cast by every independent Muslim country at the time. None of them, nor any of the others which have come into existence in our post-colonial age, would change that vote. They did not and do not accept partition.
If the Israelis wish to extricate themselves from the corner into which they have painted themselves, there is but one solution: It is time for them, all of them, to “come home” to the only covenant which guarantees them security and sovereignty in the real estate which they are inhabiting.