‘A vision seen in a dream’: A leading religious Zionist’s 1956 call for the Palestinian refugees to return

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Yehoshua Radler-Feldman (1880-1957), who wrote under the pen name R. Binyamin, was a leading figure in religious Zionism and a self-described “Herzlian Zionist”. He was also, however, one of the founding members of Brit Shalom, a binationalist, and a vocal advocate of Palestinian rights, both before and after the establishment of the State of Israel.

The following essay by Radler-Feldman appeared in the Ihud Association’s Ner journal, in March, 1956. The original, Hebrew version can be found here:

A New Israeli Message to Our Infiltrator Brother
(A vision seen in a dream)

Rabbi Binyamin
Yehoshua Radler-Feldman (Photo: Wikimedia)

You are trembling, worried, afraid for your life, because you are at our mercy. You fear severe punishment, long imprisonment or death.

Have no fear, our infiltrator brother. We will not harm you, but help you.

These words are strange to your ears. You have never heard anything like them before. No matter. Tomorrow or the day after, you will understand their practical, revolutionary significance. Your children will learn their profound, inner meaning. The children of other nations will learn them, to the end of days.

Listen now:

We called our war with you, our Arab brothers, the “War of Liberation”. Fancy words – fancy and false. We did not fight a war of liberation, but a war of subjugation. We were free men before the war. In fighting it, we became slaves. Slaves to whom? To the harshest Pharaoh in the world: his majesty Satan himself, the Evil Inclination, selfishness and arrogance, constant gnawing anxiety, fear of a “second round”, a “third round” and so forth, ad infinitum. Our bellowing for the “best weapons ever seen” was not manufactured, but the natural outcome of this state of affairs. The false education we gave our children – our gifts from God – dedicated to bloodshed and Moloch, flowed from the depths of these circumstances. In short, we felt trapped and believed in one force alone – physical strength, in which we placed our faith! That is where all our thoughts lay, and that alone is what all of our leaders, spiritual, scientific and religious, worshipped. Many shared this superstition with us; the great nations of east and west alike. Their eyes were blind to the light of truth.

It is a long and sorrowful affair. Let us not dwell upon it.

But, by the grace of God, the blinders were removed from our eyes, and a great light, a heavenly light shone upon us. And it is by this light that we shall now walk. A revolutionary change has occurred, that no one would have believed possible.

You shall no longer be called infiltrator but ascender*, because you have unknowingly ascended toward the redemption that has borne you on its wings. You are not an enemy, a foe and an adversary to us, but a brother and friend.

And this is what we shall do with you:

We shall resettle you in our midst, as one of us, in one of the villages of your people, as you choose. And we shall announce it on the radio, to your fellow refugees, lest they worry unnecessarily: so-and-so son of so-and-so was apprehended in such and such a place at such and such a time, and the Israelis who apprehended him gave him food and water and resettled him in such and such a village, and he himself will now speak to you. And from now on, refugees will not have to infiltrate by stealth, trembling with fear and trepidation, but may enter calmly, in peace and tranquillity, secure in the knowledge that nothing will befall them. If a hundred come, we will welcome them in peace, and even if a thousand should come, we will welcome them as brothers, with love and fellowship.

Then there will be a certain pause, a brief one. And we shall observe the effect of our actions. And when they have been successful, we shall do as much again. For we know that this is the sublime way of peace. This is the great and incomparable messianic idea. Do you not agree?

Ner, vol. 7, issue no. 7, March 1956

* Maʿapil – the same Hebrew word used for clandestine Jewish immigrants to Palestine, imbued with strong positive connotations in Israel of the 1950s.

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Sublime. And such a correct vision of how Zionism-militant has led to the current (since 1948) horror. Judah Magnes may have foreseen this; it doesn’t matter. It is true and it is important.

Israel-militant-as-perpetual-subjugator is as unsustainable as the world-with-global-warming.

you are one cool guy, Shmuel…as was Yehoshua Radler-Feldman.

That was great, Shmuel, thanks.

Thank you for this. Ironical that the people who were born in the land were called “infiltrators”, whereas the people whose most recent common ancestor shared with the residents of Palestine is around 500 BCE were called the people of the land.