PD Smith

Einstein and Israel

07 July 2009 | Einstein, Szilard | One comment

Fred Jerome has just published what sounds like an interesting new book examining Einstein's attitudes towards Israel and Zionism. Eric Herschthal, a writer for the Jewish Week in New York, asked me about my view of this complex subject.

I think it's important to remember that Einstein didn’t believe in nationalism. Like his great friend Leo Szilard, he was an internationalist. He once said: “I should much rather see a reasonable agreement with the Arabs based on living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish state.” (Our Debt to Zionism, 1938)

Nevertheless, Einstein hoped that Zionism would revive a Jewish sense of "community" and enable them to "regain a dignified existence". Einstein committed himself to the cause of founding a Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and in 1921 he agreed to accompany Chaim Weizmann, a biochemist and president of the World Zionist Organization, on an American fund-raising tour. It was, he said, "his sacred duty" to help. But even then Kurt Blumenfeld, an official of the Zionist movement, knew that Einstein’s support for them was limited: "Einstein, as you know, is no Zionist," he told Weizmann.

You can read Herschthal's article here.

One comment so far:

  1. Paul Halpern | 09 July 2009

    You raise excellent points about Einstein's internationalism. Any support he had for cultural movements must be seen in that context.

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