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Einstein’s Israel

by Brad A. Greenberg

April 14, 2008 | 2:47 pm

The Bintel Blog has a good post defending the Zionism of Albert Einstein (yes, that Einstein):

Was Albert Einstein “the first post-Zionist”? Jason Maoz, editor of the right-wing Orthodox weekly, The Jewish Press, thinks so. In fact, Maoz goes so far as to suggest that the famed physicist could properly be labeled a “villain.”

“Einstein, because of his iconic status as the 20th century’s preeminent scientific genius, has largely escaped Jewish criticism for his antipathy to the notion of a Jewish state,” writes Maoz, who isn’t one to give the wild-haired physicist a free pass.

Alas, Maoz presents a very selective presentation of the relevant facts, cherry-picking quotes that paint Einstein in the worst possible light. True, Einstein was critical of political Zionism and disliked the idea of a specifically Jewish state. But Einstein also lent his voice and his celebrity to the Zionist cause of establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine — and he did so at the early date of 1920. He remained a consistent and strong advocate of the effort to settle Jews in Palestine, and he publicly berated the Diaspora anti-Zionists of the American Council for Judaism, calling the group “a pitiable attempt to obtain favor and toleration from our enemies by betraying true Jewish ideals.” And when Israel was founded, he hailed the newborn state’s achievements, expressing his “joy and admiration” in a 1949 radio address.

Did history prove Einstein naïve and wrong (perhaps even somewhat dangerously so) on the question of a Jewish state? Certainly. His almost-unshakable faith in the immediate possibility of harmonious co-existence between Jews and Arabs in Palestine led him to overlook certain harsh realities. Einstein believed that if not for the policies of Britain, the Arabs of Palestine would have peacefully accepted the mass-influx of Jewish immigrants. This was clearly unrealistic.

In fact, that optimism was shared by another titan of the Tribe in the 20th century: Theodor Herzl, whose Utopian dreams of coexistence in Zion were detailed in his novel “Altneuland.”

Here is footage of Einstein meeting David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister.

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