The Jewish Homeland, Einstein and Nehru

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By Philip Mudartha
Bellevision Media Network

21 Oct 2023: Einstein was not an ardent supporter of Zionism, the Jewish Homeland project by the European Jews. He felt that the waves of arriving Jews could live alongside existing Arabs in Palestine. In 1938, he predicted that the Zionist project would be threatened by “fanatical Arab outlaws”. Yet, he professed that Palestine could become “a centre of culture for all Jews, a refuge for the most grievously oppressed, a field of action for the best among us, a unifying ideal, and a means of attaining inward health for the Jews of the whole world”.


Albert Einstein was not Zionist but endorsed the Jewish Homeland


In 1929, Einstein praised the achievements of the Zionist project in his letter to Guardian newspaper. He wrote: "Young pioneers, men and women of magnificent intellectual and moral calibre, breaking stones and building roads under the blazing rays of the Palestinian sun" and "the flourishing agricultural settlements shooting up from the long-deserted soil, the development of water power, and industry, and, above all, the growth of an educational system. Who can fail to be seized by the magic of such amazing achievement and of such almost superhuman devotion?"


Albert Einstein with Indira, Nehru and Mrs Pandit at his home in US


Recognising that India’s support would be crucial to win support of other nations, the Israeli leadership roped in Albert Einstein, the most famous member of the global Jewish community, to persuade Jawaharlal Nehru. A miracle was needed because the all-powerful prime minister-designate of India traditionally opposed Jewish statehood. The Zionists felt Einstein was capable of bringing about such a miracle.


On 13th June 1947, Albert Einstein wrote to Jawaharlal Nehru. He implored him to endorse the “Zionist effort to recreate a Jewish Homeland in Palestine”. Appealing to Nehru’s moral sensibilities and historical perspectives of rights and wrongs, he asked whether the Jews should be allowed to have a homeland in the “soil of their fathers”.


Einstein praised Nehru as a “consistent champion of the forces of political and economic enlightenment”, and exhorted him to rule in favour of “the rights of an ancient people whose roots are in the East”. Einstein pleaded for “justice and equity”, adding that “long before the emergence of Hitler, I made the cause of Zionism mine, because through it, I saw a means of correcting a flagrant wrong”.


The Horrors of Holocaust under Hitler’s Nazi Regime


Einstein went on to say that “the Jewish people alone has for centuries been in the anomalous position of being victimised and hounded as a people, though bereft of all the rights and protections which even the smallest peoples normally have. Zionism offered the means of ending this discrimination through the return to the land to which they were bound by close historic ties. Jews sought to abolish their pariah status among peoples”.


To drive home his argument, Einstein wrote in his letter: “The advent of Hitler underscored with a savage logic all the disastrous implications contained in the abnormal situation in which Jews found themselves. Millions of Jews perished because there was no spot on the globe where they could find sanctuary. The Jewish survivors demand the right to dwell amid brothers, on the ancient soil of their fathers.”


Recognising Nehru’s dilemma, Einstein went on to highlight: “Though the Arab of Palestine has benefitted economically, he wants exclusive national sovereignty, such as is enjoyed by the Arabs of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. It is a legitimate and natural desire, and justice would seem to call for its satisfaction.” This satisfaction would be in the form of a Palestinian State.


The Arab Neighbourhood of a Jewish Homeland


Post-World War 1, the Allies gave the Arabs 99% of Arab lands liberated from the Ottoman Empire, to meet Arab national aspirations, and five independent Arab states were created. 1% was reserved for the Jews “in the land of their origin”, for the establishment of Israel.


More than a million Jews were expelled by Muslim Countries


Einstein further wrote: “In the august scale of justice, which weighs need against need, there is no doubt as to whose is heavier.” He continued: “The Balfour Declaration of 1917 promised a homeland for the Jewish people and redressed the balance of justice and history”.


Einstein’s final appeal to Nehru was to brush aside “the rivalries of power politics and the egotism of petty nationalist appetites” and to support “the glorious renaissance which has begun in Palestine”.


Then the question arose if the arrival of Jewish refugees from across the world would displace the local Arab population. Einstein opined with a strict NO, and gave two reasons for it – one legal, and the other economic.


The Arab vs. Jew Population Trend in Palestine


1. The Jewish migrants bought “every inch of the land on which they settled” from the local people as per the “international agreements”. Arab locals were not forcefully uprooted from their homes to make way for Jewish settlers.


2. The Jewish settlers converted this sparsely-populated, marshy and semi-arid land into one of most fertile regions of the Middle East. The resulting prosperity benefitted not only the Jews but also the Arabs. This new-found prosperity was achieved without the “exploitation of native workers” but by the “heroic toil of Jewish pioneers”. He argued that the Arab population of Palestine had doubled in the last 30 years while the Arab population of the adjoining land had remained static.


As Einstein rightly pointed out, from the 1880s to the 1930s, most Jewish land purchases were made in the coastal plain, the Jezreel Valley, the Jordan Valley and to a lesser extent the Galilee. This was due to a preference for land that was cheap and without tenants. There were two main reasons why these areas were sparsely populated: 1) Fear of Bedouin Tribal attacks and 2) Low Soil Fertility. As a result, this area remained uncultivated and underpopulated. The sparse Arab population in the areas where the Jews usually bought their land enabled the Jews to carry out their purchase without engendering a massive displacement and eviction of Arab tenants. In the 1930s, most of the land was bought from landowners. Of the land that the Jews bought, 52.6% were bought from non-Palestinian landowners, 24.6% from Palestinian landowners, 13.4% from government, churches, and foreign companies, and only 9.4% from farmers.


The alleged shortage of land is due less to purchase by Jews than to the increase in the Arab population. The Arab claims that the Jews have obtained too large a proportion of good land are blatant falsehood. Much of the land carrying orange groves of Jewish settlers was sand dunes or swamps and uncultivated when it was bought.


Arid desert land the Jews purchased in Palestine


Jews turned the desert into fertile farms


An aerial view of a swampy land in Israel


The next chapter will discuss Nehru’s response to Einstein’s letter and related subjects.


 (To be continued)



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