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January 21, 2010

Re: Einstein on Palestine and Zionism

Dr. Yedidya Itzhaki

How can Corrigan explain the fact that Einstein ordered in his will all the royalties received for his works to the Zionist Hebrew University in Jerusalem? Why did his heirs allow to print his portrait on Israeli banknotes? How did the manuscripts of Einsteins' works come to the National Israeli Library?

Dr. Yedidya Itzhaki

Corrigan’s Reply

Einstein supported Jewish culture and educational institutions and strongly supported Hebrew University. Hebrew University was established in Palestine before the existence of Israel. I suspect that he would not like that his papers were transferred from Hebrew University to the National Israel Library.  However, it is clear that Einstein did make some comments which at times seem to show some support for Zionism. Einstein, however, clearly opposed political Zionism and even the creation of a Jewish state. He preferred and supported a bi-national state. He was very explicit in this view in 1946 when testifying before the Anglo-American Committee when asked the direct question did he support the creation of a "Jewish State." His answer was no. No one can dispute these quotes or other comments Einstein made on Zionism including the 1938 speech published in his official selected papers in Albert Einstein, Out of My Later Years (New York: Philosophical Library, 1950) and after the creation of Israel in 1948. Einstein's heirs have their own motivations. They can only speak for themselves not for Einstein.

Israel is always trying to co-opt important Jewish cultural figures like Einstein and Franz Kafka. However, lies and misrepresentations cannot change facts. They can, however, create a lot of smoke and confusion. I, for example, also support Hebrew University and Jewish cultural renewal and even cultural Zionism.  I genuinely believe that Jewish culture and history is very important and should be preserved. However, I also believe the same for Palestinians and for that matter any other cultural, national or religious group. I also believe that no group has the right to destroy or oppress another group. Accordingly, I cannot support the systematic destruction of Palestinian society and culture even to create "a Jewish State" that, in my opinion and in the opinion of many Jews, has lost touch with traditional Jewish values. I cannot support what the late Israeli sociologist Barauch Kimmerling termed it the "politicide of the Palestinian people." Given Einstein's pacificism, opposition to violence and war it is very clear that he would not blindly support a militarily aggressive "Jewish State" and its campaign against the Palestinian people and its aggressions against its neighbours.

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Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University and the author of several books focussing on the Middle East including 'The Hundred Years' War On Palestine'. He explains some of the basic facts of the struggle for Palestinian independence and the creation of the Zionist project of Israel.

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