The Dream of Herzl
ISRAEL AS a modern state goes back only to 1948; but the wedge of land at the eastern end of the Mediterranean occupied by that modern state is encrusted by thousands of years of history. According to the present possessors of the land, the weight of that history gives the Jews of the world valid title to it. According to the Arab enemies of Israel, the Jews have neither a legal nor a moral claim to that land, and hold it only by virtue of conquest and through the chicanery of Western politicians. No easy middle path is available for compromise of these irreconcilable beliefs, for there is justice on both sides. The Israelis, like all previous rulers of the Holy Land, are there by force of arms, having staked a claim and successfully defended it against the Arabs after the withdrawal of British occupation troops in 1948. As Robert Graves wrote that year, "There are no modern title-deeds to Palestine except the Mandate which the British are now surrendering. They seized the country from the Turks, who had seized it from the Arabs, who had seized it from the Crusaders, who had seized it from the Jews, who had seized it from the Canaanites, Perizzites, Philistines and others."
The Israelis do not see themselves merely as one of a dozen transient holders of this dusty scrap of territory. They produce the argument from theology: that Palestine was bestowed upon them by the Lord Almighty, who is also the God of the Moslems, as a homeland for all time. They offer the cultural argument: that during their first occupation of Palestine they created a society and a culture whose beliefs and scriptures influenced the future course of Western civilization, and so they are entitled to return to the