Zionists were originally a pretty tough folk, not incomparable to South African Boers. Economically leftist, they were ultra-right in political matters. Kibbutzniks had common property, and the Histadrut code of ethics prohibited such “excesses” as owning paintings, but Jewish workers and peasants knew that they had to conquer the country and take it from the Arabs, and they had few qualms about retaliating against the Arabs. Before the 1930s, Jews knew their enemies clearly, and their enemies were Arabs.

The situation started to change with the Nazis’ rise to power. Arguably, it might have changed anyway, as the Jews matured and became moderate. Be that as it may, in real history the change began with the Nazis.

Supreme Court of Israel originated with Nazis

In repressions against Jews in Germany, Zionists saw a great opportunity to further their emigration to Palestine. Importantly for the fledgling Jewish Agency, the new immigrants were generally affluent, which also sat well with the British occupiers. German Jews were normally able to amass the minimal amount required to qualify them for “capitalist” visas. Assimilationist Jews who wished to stay in the Diaspora screamed treason. Rabbi Stephen Wise tried to organize a worldwide boycott of Nazi Germany, but the Zionists frustrated his plans: they felt they had to use the opportunity to bring many more Jews to the Land of Israel, rather than protect them in the Exile. The argument was cynical but true. Zionists also pointed out that Wise’s boycott would greatly endanger German Jews, as indeed happened. For Wise, too, the boycott was largely a political thing. Later events showed how little that American rabbinical leader cared about Jews; he lashed out against Hillel Kook and refused to put any pressure on the US Administration to bomb the death camps. In all probability, Wise’s boycott attempt was one of Roosevelt’s ploys against Germany.

Zhabotinsky’s Revisionist Movement was torn between the desire to increase the flow of Jews to Palestine and the traditional right-wing goal of protecting them in the Exile. Zhabotinsky, a witness to Ukrainian and Byelorussian pogroms at the turn of the twentieth century, could not abandon the German Jews. The Nazis tolerated Betar training camps because their ultimate goal was ridding Germany of Jews. In the end, Zhabotinsky nominally divested from German Betar to avoid endangering it in his own boycott activities.

For mainstream Zionists, the year 1933 started a windfall of haavara, an exchange in which Germany allowed its Jews to leave for Palestine with large amounts of money and possessions. Short of foreign exchange, the Germans devised a solution acceptable to the Zionists: the departing German Jews would pay for local goods with deutschmarks; the goods would be then exported to Palestine, where Zionist enterprises would sell them and pay the arriving immigrants. The solution was a win-win one: Germany rid itself of some Jews, and the Jewish Agency received about a 35 percent profit on the transactions. Unbeknownst to German Jews at that time, they also profited handsomely—by having their lives saved. Still, only about a tenth of German Jews moved to Palestine.

They were unlike those who had come before. The religious Jewish immigrants were not hugely productive but highly charged ideologically. Zionist immigrants were not religious but hugely productive. German Jews (yekkes) were neither. Like most of the 1990s Russian aliyah, the yekkes were fleeing domestic troubles rather than ascending to the Land of Israel. The assimilated mob hardly even associated itself with Jews, and not at all with Zionists. Many expected to return to Germany after the Nazis’ rule was over. In the haavara scheme, Zionists played with the devil and lost: German Jewish immigrants amalgamated into a powerful anti-Zionist force. They spoke German, scorned the redneck Palestinian Jewish culture, ignored religion, and snobbishly viewed themselves as Europeans in an Asiatic land. Common Jews answered them in kind, and the alienation grew. Detested and scornful, German Jews were the Peace Now of that time.

Lacking Zionist ideals, the cosmopolitan yekkes became the major voice behind the idea of a binational state, or even Jewish autonomy under British rule. They advocated peaceful solutions and accommodation of Arabs. The German Jews were remarkably pacifist as a matter of law-obedience. They had an aversion to mob violence, and they suffered from guilt. They lived under the tremendous guilt of “the drowned and the saved.” They could not forget that the immigration certificates handed to them were refused to others, who subsequently perished. By helping the Arabs, they mitigated their failure to help European Jews

The British occupiers turned the Jewish Agency (Sohnut) into a Judenrat. The British issued to the Sohnut a limited number of immigration permits, which it distributed at its own discretion. In effect, the British made Jews to perform selektzia, choosing between life and death for their compatriots. The Sohnut acted sometimes cynically, other times sensibly or desperately. It distributed visas to Palestine among its socialist supporters and to young people with agricultural training. But before Germany occupied Poland in 1939, Sohnut passed half its visas to German Jews who, at 500,000, were just 17 percent of the total number of Jews in Poland. Naturally, the Jewish Agency thought the German Jews were in more immediate danger than the Polish ones. The yekkes, accordingly, lived with the knowledge that they had received their visas as a matter of Sohnut’s misjudgment, even though they weren’t qualified by age and profession.

Many German Jews who came to Palestine did not have a trade or means to secure productive employment. Nor did they want one, as they viewed redneck Jews with disdain. Later, the Israeli “cultural elite” became infected with this attitude.

When the Jewish state had been formed, the yekkes were the only educated class. Automatically, they became academics, media professionals, and judges. They imprinted German values on their students. Those were the extremely nihilist values of the most assimilated Jewish community of the time. If God had a purpose in the Holocaust, it could only have been stopping the assimilation, preventing that plague from coming to the Land of Israel, just as a generation of the Exile had to die in the desert. That purpose had failed, as yekkes exerted disproportionate, overwhelming influence over the Israeli educated class.

Politically, the Germanized court system received a major boost when Herut-Likud first came to power thirty years ago. Socialists recognized that the changing Israeli demographics would spell an end to their dominance: Sephardic Jews had bitter personal experience with Arabs and would vote for right-wing parties. Here came the Supreme Court option: if the court elects its own members, it becomes completely insulated from the changes in public opinion—and incidentally, from Zionism too. Common Israelis may vote for whomever they like, but in the end the Supreme Court would control legislation—striking down some laws, ammending others still in the Knesset by informing MKs of the court’s opinion—and dictate new laws in the court’s decisions. The Supreme Court has even assumed executive power by ruling on the army’s actions, the route of the separation barrier, and myriad other issues, which amounted to its managing the country.

Short of simply shooting the traitors, Justice Minister Friedmann’s battle to have the Knesset appoint judges was the next best thing.