A Letter from Yeshayahu Leibowitz to Isaiah Berlin
Israel Channel 8 has been broadcasting a three-part documentary on Yeshayahu Leibowitz. Hopefully they will post the series online when it is finished. The introduction to the second part began with a few words about the relationship between Leibowitz and Isaiah Berlin. Apparently both of them studied Hebrew with the same tutor in Riga. Ephraim Halevy, the former head of the Mossad, read from a letter that Berlin sent to Leibowitz’s widow after his death. Berlin’s letter included quotes from a letter that Leibowitz had sent Berlin some years earlier. Below are the contents of Leibowitz’s letter.
I have the feeling that you think I’m some kind of liberal intellectual, even Tolstoya, or even perhaps a pacifist. Certainly not. I am nothing of the kind. I believe in wars, if they are absolutely necessary. My reasons for being in Israel are very simple. It is in my opinion where God wished us to be, and I wanted to be a citizen of a Jewish state, preferably democratic. But even regrettably undemocratic if the majority insisted on this. What I do not want is to live in a state which contains and governs and oppresses Arabs. This is rank imperialism and odious to me. I want a state of Jews, governed by Jews, for Jews. Let there be minorities, but do not let them be maltreated, and despised and hated in the way in which we seem to hate Arabs and they us.