by SIR ISAIAH BERLIN
I SHOULD LIKE to begin with the strange fact that the State of Israel exists. It was once said by the celebrated Russian revolutionary, Herzen, writing in the mid-nineteenth century, that the Slavs had no history, only geography. The position of the Jews is the reverse of this. They have enjoyed rather too much history and too little geography. And the foundation of the State of Israel must be regarded as a piece of historical redress for this anomalous situation. The Jews have certainly had more than their share of history, or, as some might say, martyrology. Certainly no community has ever been so conscious of itself, its past fate, its future, and the apparently insoluble character of the problems which beset it. Where were the Jews going? What would happen to them, or should be done about them? Almost every Jew, early or late in his life, has encountered something called the Jewish problem. Englishmen, Frenchmen, Belgians, Chinese, Portuguese are not beset at the beginning of their conscious lives by something called the Belgian, Chinese, or Portuguese problem. This consciousness of themselves as being peculiarly problematical, rendered the creation of the State of Israel a miracle; for if it had been made dependent on the solution of the Jewish problem by the specialists on the subject, if the Jews had been what either some of their friends or some among their enemies have declared them to be, there might well have been no State of Israel at all.
Perpetual discussions went on, particularly during the nineteenth century -- the most historically conscious of all ages -- about whether the Jews were a race, or solely a religion; a people, a community, or merely an economic category. Books, pamphlets, debates increased in volume if not in quality. But there was one persistent fact about