Albert Einstein, in conjunction with other prominent Jewish figures such as Hannah Arendt, penned a letter published in The New York Times on December 4, 1948. This occurred shortly after Israel’s declaration of independence and during the active demolition of numerous Palestinian villages following the expulsion of their inhabitants.
The letter strongly criticized the newly established Herut party (now Likud) in Israel and its young leader, Menachem Begin. Herut emerged from the notorious Irgun terrorist group, known for committing numerous massacres against Palestinian Arab communities leading up to the Nakba in 1947-48, marking the tragic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their historical homeland.
Einstein and his colleagues described the Herut (Freedom) party in the letter as a “political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy, and social appeal to Nazi and Fascist parties.” This bold condemnation, coming just a few years after the end of World War II and the Holocaust, underscores the deep divide among Jewish intellectuals of the time – between those who supported Israel and its tumultuous inception and those who took a principled stance against it.
Regrettably, the latter group, though still in existence, did not prevail in the larger debate. Herut later merged to form the Likud Party, with Menachem Begin receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. The Likud Party is currently the dominant force in Israel’s theocratic government coalition, embodying the ideologies likened to ‘Nazi and Fascist principles’ by Einstein, which now permeate mainstream Israeli society.
This theocratic inclination is even more pronounced among today’s young Israelis. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud Party, heads a coalition that includes Avigdor Lieberman, the Russian-born Defense Minister and founder of the ultra-nationalist party Yisrael Beiteinu.
In response to protests by Palestinians in Gaza and to justify the high number of casualties inflicted by the Israeli army, Lieberman asserted, “there are no innocent people in Gaza.” well before HaAvoda (Labor) President Isaac Herzog controversially said the same. Such beliefs contribute to the troubling reality of Israeli snipers shooting unarmed Palestinian youth.
This fascist discourse is not confined to the fringes of Israeli society. Netanyahu’s coalition includes morally objectionable figures like Ayelet Shaked, who has advocated for the genocide of Palestinians. Shaked, a member of the Jewish Home Party, was appointed as the Justice Minister by Netanyahu in 2015.
While Israel intensifies its ethnic cleansing campaign in Gaza ongoing since the 1948 Nakba, the mindset described as “Nazi and Fascist” in 1948 now characterizes its ruling class. Israeli leaders openly discuss genocide and murder while projecting an image of civilization, democracy, and human rights.
The critique margin in the supposed ‘only democracy in the Middle East’ has diminished significantly. Figures like Netanyahu, Herzog, Lieberman, Bennett, and Shaked now represent modern Israel, backed by a substantial constituency of terroristic zealots and Zionist Ethno-Nationalists with little regard for Palestinians, human rights, or international law.
Einstein, in 1938, opposed the idea behind Israel’s creation, deeming it contrary to the “essential nature of Judaism.” If alive today, he might have aligned with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, holding Israel accountable for its actions against Palestinians. However, such a stance would likely lead to branding him as anti-Semitic by today’s Zionists.
The Western narrative must change. Palestinian children are not terrorists, and their mothers should not be killed. The world must stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people to end the normalization of genocide and defeat the lingering ideologies reminiscent of Herut’s “Nazi and Fascist” philosophies. Despite 75 years since Israel’s “independence”, Einstein’s letters condemning Zionist terrorism, and the denialist notion that the October 7th retaliation was ‘unprovoked’, the country’s legacy remains tainted with the blood and violence that led Einstein to decline the offer of Israel’s presidency along with the blood and violence Israel is perpetuating in the present, providing no reason for celebration and ample cause for mourning. Yet, hope persists as the Palestinian people continue to resist, seeking solidarity from the global community to vanquish the ghosts of Herut and eradicate the Zionist ideology resembling “Nazi and Fascist” principles.