Brit Shalom (political organization)

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Brit Shalom (Hebrew: ברית שלום‎, lit. "covenant of peace"; Arabic: تحالف ألسلام‎, Tahalof Essalam; also called the Jewish–Palestinian Peace Alliance) was a group of Jewish 'universalist' intellectuals in Mandatory Palestine, founded in 1925, which never exceeded a membership of 100.

The original "Brit Shalom" sought a peaceful coexistence between Arabs and Jews, to be achieved by renunciation of the Zionist aim of creating a Jewish state. The alternative vision of Zionism was to create a centre for Jewish cultural life in Palestine, echoing the earlier ideas of Ahad Ha'am. At the time, Brit Shalom supported the establishment of a bi-national state where Jews and Arabs would have equal rights.

Brit Shalom supporters and founders included economist and sociologist Arthur Ruppin, philosopher Martin Buber, Hugo Bergmann, historian Hans Kohn, Gershom Scholem, Henrietta Szold and Israel Jacob Kligler; others, such as Albert Einstein also voiced their support. Judah Leon Magnes, while being one of the authors of their program, never joined the organization.[1][2]

A letter from Arthur Ruppin to Hans Kohn in May 1930 states: "In the foundations of Brith Shalom one of the determining factors was that the Zionist aim has no equal example in history. The aim is to bring the Jews as second nation into a country which already is settled as a nation - and fulfill this through peaceful means. History has seen such penetration by one nation into a strange land only by conquest, but it has never occurred that a nation will freely agree that another nation should come and demand full equality of rights and national autonomy at its side. The uniqueness of this case prevents its being, in my opinion, dealt with in conventional political-legal terms. It requires special contemplation and study. Brith Shalom should be the forum in which the problem is discussed and investigated."[3]

A binational state would have been consistent with the Balfour Declaration which called for the creation of a "national home for the Jewish people" without prejudice to "the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine" but not with aim of Zionism as conceived by Herzl which was for a Jewish state and not merely a "national home". Ruppin considered Herzl's project erroneous because it ignored the existence of the Arabs.[4]

Ruppin was a major Zionist figure and held a senior position within the Jewish Agency as Director of the Palestine Land Development Company. Most Palestinian Jews and Arabs rejected the proposed binational solution, and Ruppin himself eventually became convinced it was unrealistic. The group disintegrated by the early 1930s.[5] The idea of a single state for Jews and Arabs between the Jordan and the Mediterranean has never fully died, however. In 1942, Magnes and supporters of Brit Shalom formed the political party Ihud which also advocated binationalism.

Several years ago, a new American peace group took the name Brit Tzedek v'Shalom in a deliberate echo of the original Brit Shalom, but the newer group supports a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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  1. ^ Bentwich, Norman (1954) For Zion's Sake. A Biography of Judah L. Magnes. First Chancellor and First President of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia. Library of Congress Number: 54 7440. Page 185.
  2. ^ Walter Laqueur (2003) A History of Zionism Tauris Parke Paperbacks, ISBN 1-86064-932-7 p 251
  3. ^ quoted in Simha Flapan (1979) Zionism and the Palestinians, Croom Helm ISBN 0-06-492104-2, p 168-9
  4. ^ Flapan p. 168
  5. ^ Flapan p 173

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