I would therefore like to be heretical concerning the “rejection of the Diaspora”. It is true and incontestable that the concept of rejection of the Diaspora has been one of the pillars of Zionism since the movement’s inception. In the period under discussion Gruenbaum reiterated the idea in stark terms:
“And this is the most terrible curse of the Diaspora, this is its very essence: loss of the capacity for self-defense, an intensified desire to live under any conditions, to maintain a totally empty life, a life of debased bondage and humiliation. To overcome the Diaspora means not only to leave it and to build the homeland. A member of the Diaspora... lacks the strength to seize for himself a life of liberty in the homeland, [a life] which is based on the readiness to sacrifice one’s life in order to defend it.”
These words are a scathing insult to all those from She’arit Hapleta who went to Eretz Israel and joined Gachal and the Palmach and fought in the War of Independence and the wars that followed.
It seems to me, however, that this salient ideological element of Zionism is merely theoretical for, in practice, when persons from the Yishuv - who were themselves overwhelmingly “members of the Diaspora!” - encountered Jews in distress and in need of help, this element was forgotten and the help was rendered out of the deep bond that links Jews beyond any ideologies or ephemeral circumstances. Indeed, it was Gruenbaum himself who, during and after the war, fought the Jewish Agency Executive and, at times, Ben-Gurion, in order to save Jews “without selection”, without a “Zionist criterion”, and irrespective of any Zionist gains.
In summing up the role of She’arit Hapleta in the plans of the Zionist movement, one can say that She’arit Hapleta was not an instrument for furthering Zionist political goals as was expected in Palestine during the course of the war. She’arit Hapleta, including the “ordinary Jews”, was too independent, too enterprising, to become an instrument in anyone’s hands; moreover, by 1946, She’arit Hapleta totalled some quarter of a million persons, or almost half the number of the Yishuv. Following the first jolting encounter, and as She’arit Hapleta increasingly recovered, the vitality and the instinctive, post-Holocaust Zionism of the survivors meshed with the Jewish sense of duty dormant in the Yishuv. The latter prompted a desire to care for and rehabilitate the survivors even if no Zionist profit accrued from it and involved the Zionist obligation to bring Jews to Palestine in order to advance the enterprise.
Source: Gutman, Yisrael and Saf, Avital (eds.), She’arit Hapleta 1944- 1948, Rehabilitation and Political Struggle, Proceedings of the Sixth Yad Vashem International Historical Conference, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1990, pp. 300-302.