Library and Archives
Library and Archives

Judaica part 5 — Israel

Pro and Con

The most important political development for the Jewish people after World War II was the proclamation of the state of Israel in 1948. Zionist migration to the Jewish holy land had been going on for decades, but the Holocaust accelerated the process, bringing large numbers of Jewish refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe to what was then the British mandate of Palestine.

Before World War II, Zionism had never been the dominant movement among European and Russian Jews, but for many Jews the Holocaust vindicated the idea of founding a Jewish state as both a refuge and a political expression of Jewish identity. Jewish opinion remained divided over the nature of Zionism, but for a majority, Israel became a symbol of hope and Jewish renewal, one deserving financial and political support. For a minority, Israel seemed to be either a country condemned to perpetual conflict with its Arab neighbors or the embodiment of an anachronistic Jewish nationalism running counter to assimilationist trends in the United States and Europe.

J. C. Hurewitz Collection

The J. C. Hurewitz collection has important materials on the early phase of the Zionist immigration to Palestine, including the various political tendencies within the Zionist movement itself. Some publications in the collection pertain to Zionist labor organizations such as the Histadrut, Habonim, and Poale Zion, which were explicitly socialist in their orientation. The Wladyslaw Anders papers, which deal with Polish military forces under Anders's command during World War II, also has a number of documents relating to conditions in Palestine before the creation of Israel (there is even an account of a ca. 1943 visit to a kibbutz).

Materials in the Hurewitz collection also concern the extreme right wing of the Zionist movement, the followers of Vladimir (Zeev) Jabotinsky's brand of so-called Revisionist Zionism. In Palestine, the right-wing Zionists had both a political organization, the Herut, and an armed underground, the Irgun Zvai Leumi, whose most famous member was Menachem Begin, a future prime minister of Israel. The Irgun fought against British rule in Palestine and against the native Palestinian Arabs who opposed the creation of Israel, acquiring a controversial reputation in the process. Materials by and about the Irgun Zvai Leumi and another armed rightwing Zionist organization, the Stern gang, are in the Hurewitz collection.

Other documents in the Hurewitz collection provide an Arab perspective on the creation of Israel, including publications from pro-Arab organizations in the United States. In these writings, the creation of Israel is viewed as a process entailing the dispossession and expulsion of the Palestinian Arab population.

The declaration of Israeli independence was followed by the 1948 Israeli-Arab war; both the Jack M. Seymour and Howard Everard Koch collections contain materials concerning this conflict. There are also archival materials relating to the Suez Crisis of 1954, when France, Britain, and Israel invaded Egypt, including examples of speeches by Gamel Abdel Nasser, the then Egyptian leader.

A number of archival collections contain materials on the 1967 Israeli-Arab war, among them the Christopher Temple Emmet Jr. papers. The Israeli bombing of the American naval vessel Liberty is the subject of several collections in the archives, including the U.S.S. Liberty Veterans Association collection. Speculation among historians continues as to the exact circumstances surrounding this event.

Friedrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman Papers

Following the 1967 Israeli-Arab war, and the resulting occupation by Israel of the West Bank and Gaza, debates about Israeli policy began that continue to this day. Both Jewish and non-Jewish writers have expressed a wide range of opinions on the Middle East conflict and its possible resolution. The Austrian economist and philosopher Friedrich von Hayek, a non-Jew, corresponded with Menachem Begin, then prime minister of Israel, to propose that Jerusalem be given an international status in any peace settlement. Their exchange of views is contained in the correspondence series of the Hayek papers and increment. Materials relating to Israel and its economy are also in the Milton Friedman papers. The Middle East conflict was the subject of a number of television programs in William F. Buckley's Firing Line series, and these are contained in the Firing Line broadcast records.

Eric Hoffer Papers

The state of Israel has had numerous defenders in the United States and elsewhere, by no means all of them Jewish. For example, the noted American social philosopher Eric Hoffer was a strong advocate of Israel and wrote several widely reprinted pieces on the topic, copies of which are in the Hoffer papers. There are also collections pertaining to pro-Israeli politicians, including that of Samuel I. Hayakawa, which contains Israel-related materials dating from Hayakawa's service on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The archives has a number of collections that present alternative viewpoints on Israeli policies, especially regarding the Palestinians. In addition to the Alfred M. Lilienthal papers, which are mainly concerned with opinion in Arab countries, several small collections pertain to the Palestine Liberation Organization. Also in the archives are papers of U.S. politicians, such as Paul N. “Pete” McCloskey and Paul Findley, who were critical of American support for Israel.


Related slide shows

May 22, 2007

Israel Collection Highlight

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