18 - Magnes, Buber and Ihud (Unity)  pp. 337-356

Magnes, Buber and Ihud (Unity)

By Sasson Sofer

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Three basic political ideas emerged in the history of the struggle between Jews and Arabs over the same tract of land. The most prominent one was partition. The second was the approach which was actually fulfilled, the establishment of an independent state ruled by one of the sides and in which the opposing side became a national minority. The third found expression in the concept of bi-nationalism. There were various formulae for bi-nationalism – a sovereign state in which both nations existed on some kind of federative basis, and a political entity within the framework of the British Empire, within a wide Arab federation, or under a form of international patronage. Although on the fringes of Zionist politics, Ihud constituted an association of intellectuals with impressive credentials – the philosopher Martin Buber, the first President of the Hebrew University, Judah Magnes, and the writer and one of the founders of the Farmers' Federation, Moshe Smilansky. Among its adherents could be counted some of the Hebrew University's foremost scholars – Gershom Scholem, Hugo Bergman and Ernst Simon, as well as several well-known public figures – Arthur Ruppin, Pinchas Rutenberg, Shlomo Zemach and Henrietta Szold.

Ihud constituted the first instance in the history of Israel's politics of what happens when intellectuals seek to propose a compromise solution in the course of a violent national conflict. It demonstrated their organisational weakness and the fact that their political influence was marginal. Ihud presages the fate which was to befall Israel's intelligentsia whenever it approached the white-hot heart of the Israel-Arab conflict and sought to join in the political fray.