Leonard Schwartz on Martin Buber & Palestine

Martin Buber

Martin Buber

Interesting piece by poet Leonard Schwartz on the Common Grounds News Service website. Below, the opening paragraphs; you can read the whole article here.

After the assault on Gaza

by Leonard Schwartz

26 March 2009

OLYMPIA, WA – Perhaps the greatest moral philosopher to arise from European Jewish culture was the Austrian-born Martin Buber, later a citizen of Israel. Buber was a Zionist. His seminal theological text I And Thou remains relevant today, a powerful work in its devotion to encounter, to the recognition of the Stranger, to dialogue. Buber’s political writings – over a 44 year period – are also very instructive. In a 1929 piece “The National Home and The National Riots in Palestine”, delivered as a speech in Berlin two months after the Palestine Riots resulted in the deaths of over 125 Jews, Buber wrote:

Every responsible relationship between an individual and his fellow begins through the power of genuine imagination, as if we were the residents of Palestine and the others were the immigrants who were coming into the country in increasing numbers, year by year, taking it away from us. How would we react to events? Only if we know this will it be possible to minimize the injustice we must do in order to survive and to live the life which we are not only entitled but obliged to live, since we live for the eternal mission, which has been imbedded within us since our creation.

The passage is suggestive of Buber’s “I-Thou” conception in that it calls for one group to imagine itself in the position of the other. At the same time, it is very clear in this passage that Buber, as a Zionist, does not shrink from describing Jewish emigration to the Holy Land in 1929 as an eschatological and moral calling, a historical coming-to-pass in the name of which injustices may have to be committed.

With this quote in mind, it becomes doubly instructive, in view of the contemporary situation, to remind ourselves of a text Buber wrote in 1947, “The Bi-National Approach to Zionism”. In this extraordinary essay Buber offers the following:

We describe our program as that of a bi-national state—that is, we aim at a social structure based on the reality of two peoples living together. The foundations of this structure cannot be the traditional ones of majority and minority, but must be different. We do not mean just any bi-national state, but this particular one, with its particular conditions, i.e. a bi-national state which embodies in its basic principle a Magna Charta Reservationum, the indispensable postulate of the rescue of the Jewish people. This is what we need and not a “Jewish State”.

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1 Response

  1. ruth lepson says:

    thank you for this contribution to peace, Pierre.

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