As I continue reading Tony Judt’s book, the following considerations come to mind. (To make it clear which ideas are mine and which I’m borrowing from Judt’s book, I italicized his contribution to my argument. I’m an academic, and my fear of plagiarism is immense.)
When the city of Kharkov was finally liberated from the Nazis (for the second time in a row), my Jewish relatives came home from exile. And immediately discovered that their neighbors had occupied their apartments and stolen all of their belongings. These neighbors were not at all happy to see Jewish survivors come home and didn’t even contemplate returning the stolen property.
This was going on everywhere in Europe in 1943-5. Jews were coming home from the front lines, the concentration camps, the evacuation, the exile – and discovering that nobody was happy to see them home. Their property had been stolen by their neighbors and nobody was interested in giving it back. As a result, in 1946-7 (long after the capitulation of the Nazi Germany) there were constant pogroms and murders of Jews across Europe. The weak post-war governments weren’t going to antagonize the ethnic majorities to protect the pesky Jews.
So what was the response to this situation? In the era of stuffing each ethnic group into a neat little territorial box, Jews were told to go away for good and stop bugging Europe with their obnoxious and divisive presence. There was, of course, a consolation prize given to the Jews instead of their stolen belongings and the familiar way of life in familiar surroundings. “You will now also get a country of your own,” Jews were told.
Of course, it mattered little that this “country of their own” was a barren little strip of a desert that was already populated by somebody else. Given that the people living in that strip of land were not Europeans, they didn’t really count as people. This “country of their own” was supposed to protect Jews from a repetition of the Holocaust.
“We can’t promise not to experience an uncontrollable desire to burn a couple more millions of you, people, in industrial furnaces,” Europeans were saying. “So please just go away now and don’t tempt us.”
So the Jews left, and the ethnic parceling of Europe was soon complete.
Of course, this is not the only reason behind Europe’s interest in the creation of Israel. In the countries that massively collaborated with the Nazis (France, Norway, Netherlands, Finland, etc.), nobody wanted to be obligated to stare into the faces of the victims of Nazism for too long. There was a deep need to pretend that powerful resistance movement existed in these countries, and this fiction exacted a degree of complicity that Jews were not going to provide.