Security and Foreign Policy

Challenges Posed by an Ethnostate- Israel and the International Jewish Community

In the current political atmosphere, the international Jewish community faces multiple challenges as Israel frames itself as an ethnostate and instances of anti-semitism rise. Ambassador Jose A. Zorrilla explores the multifaceted questions facing Jewish people across the globe in the face of Israel's actions and divisive sentiments.

BY: JOSE A. ZORRILLA

There used to be a Jewish question, namely, discrimination against non-Christians in Christian societies. Presently we do not have one but many Jewish questions, all of which began in 1947. Zionism turned a spiritual body, the Jewish people, into a political body, the state of Israel. Land had never played a role before, but from then on it became the gist of the problem. To begin, there were original populations in Palestine; scorched earth got rid of them. The moral high ground of the victims’ par excellence faded away at that moment. Additional problems arose as a consequence of the 1967 victory. Jewish military and people were sent to occupy the conquered land, something that is forbidden by Public International Law. Reprisals were taken against the homes of Palestinian militants. Indeed, it was extremely sensitive; Europe has never forgotten Oradour or the Ardeatine Fosse. To prevent such occurrences again, reprisals became a no-no in war or peace. The state of Israel ignores such a prohibition on a regular basis and, as a consequence, many of its high officials cannot set foot in Europe for they would face indictment of crimes defined as such by the Nuremberg Trials. But the center of the Israeli question continues to be citizenship.

Israel chose to become an ethno-state. It remains to be seen how in the absence of a two-state solution, apartheid will be averted. While these questions still loom, another equally serious issue stalks the West: a new breed of anti-Semitism. Not in the old sense, since Jewish people can be doctors or teach in Universities. But the policies of the state of Israel are little by little poisoning Europe with a non-disguised anti-Jewish bias. The rationale behind this new racism is simple. Since only Jewish people can be citizens of Israel and Israel does bad things, all Jewish people are responsible for the evils of such a state. The itch is particularly grave in France due to its high number of Muslims. There have been crimes of hatred, graffiti, attacks on the temples, and desecration of tombs; the usual panoply of horror. As a consequence, thousands of Jews are fleeing to Israel for they do not feel protected by the state of France, viewing it as an ominous polity. Without being of critical nature, another problem is coming to the fore. Jewish people around the world cannot condone the practices of the state of Israel. In principle, they are all liberals and yet the policies of their state are all but liberal. Division has even reached the American Jews. There used to be just one lobby, AIPAC, now another one, J Street, shelters the liberal American Jewish population. New developments continue to fuel the fire. The US recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel in 2017 against the vote of the other 14 members of the UN Security Council. The next step seems to be the will of the US to bring to court all those who criticize Israel under the charge of anti-Semitism. The Bill, ultimately, jeopardizes the safety of Jewish people as well, who are critical of the state of Israel.

The gap between the US and Europe continues to widen with the new Iran policy. Trump considers the nuclear deal dead, courtesy of Netanyahu. Such behavior makes a fool of its European signatories, including Germany, France and the UK. We all understand that security is of the essence. But Israel has the bomb, in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and, courtesy of Germany, keeps six Dolphin-class submarines plying the waters of the Red Sea with second strike capabilities. Can anybody truly believe that Hezbollah is a serious challenge to all this?  In short, the Israeli irritant is structural and profound for the West.

And when things seemed bad enough, the unthinkable happened. The USSR collapsed, new countries began their national course, and anti-Semitism rose again. That had nothing to do with the policies of the State of Israel- anti-Semitism of the worst kind, fueled by Nazi persuasion. We saw frail old people wear the uniform of the auxiliary units of the Waffen SS and parade in the streets of the Baltic countries amidst the enthusiasm of the crowd. To make matters worse Ukraine became one of ours, so to speak. And one of the first acts of his sovereign will was to honor Stephan Bandera as hero of the Fatherland. Later the title was rescinded. Very recently the Ukrainian Executive decided that anybody who dares to criticize the Ukrainian forces OUN or UPA can go to prison. These units were responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of Jews and Poles, women and children included. Their flags fly symbols of crime and sully the streets of Kyiv, their torches lighten the nights of our allied friend of choice and turn us back to the days of shame. And yet some of us have read literature on the subject. What these testimonies say is harrowing and belittle classics like “Sophie’s choice”. Not necessarily masterpieces. Just graffiti in burned synagogues, letters, diaries, photography, little lives turned memory by the cruelty of their sacrifice. I stepped on these fields many years ago and I liked to believe I was walking among the ghosts of Piasecki´s smugglers, romantic heroes desperately in love with the Great Bear. Far from me the sad truth. Those were the Bloodlands Snyder was to depict, later on, the scenario of Littell’s The Kindly Ones, the earth that covers the worst cruelties against Jews. Very likely I was walking on Shoah’ s mass graves. As a senior, already seasoned in infamy, I visited Odessa and witnessed in its surroundings the vandals’ track in desecrated Jewish cemeteries. The cause of all this hatred continues to be a mystery to me. How anybody can reach the bottom of cruelty depicted in “Everything is illuminated” defies reason and imagination.

Well, it seems that now we, the citizens of the West, have to negotiate not only the bundle of contradictions mentioned above but the mother of all Jewish Questions, namely, to swallow both ends of the rope:  the ethno-state that Adolf Eichmann visited as a possible example for the future German Reich, and the pro-Nazi ethno-states that murdered Jews and have turned the Shoah into the mainstay of their national narratives. It is difficult for me to offer some form of remedy. I would suggest exploring the venue opened by the late Paris Cardinal, Mons. Lustiger. Jewish by birth he converted to Catholicism while remaining adamant in defending Judaism.


Ambassador Jose A. Zorrilla is a career diplomat from Spain with postings in Milan (1989), Toronto (1993), Shanghai (2001), Moscow (2004), and Tbilisi (2009). He has published a book on the rise of China “China la primavera que llega” (China, the spring that arrives) and shot two documentary films (“Los Justos” (The Righteous) and “El desierto y las olas” (The Desert and the Waves)) and one full length film “El Arreglo” (The Deal) that won the Opera Prima Prize at the San Sebastian Film Festival in 1983.  He has just published a novel “El espía en Saratov” (The Spy in Saratov) (De Librum Tremens) and “Historia fantástica de Europa” (An Imaginary History of Europe). He is a frequent contributor to El Mundo with articles focusing mostly on current affairs.

Note from the Author: This article owes a lot to two of my best friends ever. One, Ashkenazy, opened for me the gates of the film industry many years ago. Today, one of my best friends is a Sephardic Jew. The first is no longer with us. The second is a constant source of joy. Both were Harvard alumni, both Shoah victims.  

Please note that opinions expressed in this article are solely those of our contributors, not of Political Insights, which takes no institutional positions.

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