Dolhinov | Horodok | Krasne | Krivichi | Kurenets | Radoshkovichi | Rakov | Vashki | Vileyka | Vishnevo | Volozhin
Return to Riga Home Page
Return to Riga Stories Menu
Riga Stories
Isaiah Berlin

Isaiah Berlin
Isaiah Berlin was born in Riga in 1909. In 1916 his family moved to
Petrograd, where he witnessed the Russian Revolution, and in 1921 he
emigrated to England. He was educated at Corpus Christi College,
Oxford, and became a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, where he was
later appointed Professor of Social and Political Theory. He served as
the first president of Wolfson College, Oxford, and as president of
the British Academy. He died in 1997. For more information, see the
Isaiah Berlin Virtual Library.
The Isaiah Berlin Virtual Library is the website of The Isaiah Berlin
Literary Trust, which looks after all aspects of Berlin's literary
estate. The Trusts's main tasks are to edit and publish the best of
Berlin's unpublished writing, including his letters; to publish
collections of his best uncollected work; to post other material, and
relevant information, on this website; and in general to foster
awareness of and access to Berlin's intellectual, literary and
personal legacy.
The Isaiah Berlin Virtual Library
Home | Search

Isaiah Berlin and Israel

On 16 October 1997 Sir Isaiah Berlin, who had been gravely ill since
late July, made what turned out to be a final statement on the subject
of the Israeli–Palestinian situation (he died on 5 November). To make
a statement of this kind was unusual for him, since he rarely if ever
made public statements on political topics, though, in the case of
Israel, he was ready to be known as a supporter of Peace Now. On this
occasion, however, he decided to take what might be his last
opportunity to set out his strongly held views, which he sent in the
form of a brief statement (dictated to his secretary) entitled 'Israel
and the Palestinians' to his close friend Professor Avishai Margalit
in Jerusalem. When it was received, Professor Margalit telephoned for
permission to publish it, which Berlin gave on the day he died. The
letter appeared in Hebrew in Ha'aretz on 7 November, on the front
page, together with the announcement of Berlin's death, and an
interview with Professor Margalit.
These facts, and the text of the statement, were released on 12
November by Berlin's Literary Trustees in view of the importance of
the subject and the current state of the Israeli–Palestinian peace
process. The text of the statement follows.



Since both sides begin with a claim of total possession of Palestine
as their historical right; and since neither claim can be accepted
within the realms of realism or without grave injustice: it is plain
that compromise, i.e. partition, is the only correct solution, along
Oslo lines – for supporting which Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish
Ideally, what we are calling for is a relationship of good
neighbours, but given the number of bigoted, terrorist chauvinists on
both sides, this is impracticable.
The solution must lie somewhat along the lines of reluctant
toleration, for fear of far worse – i.e. a savage war which could
inflict irreparable damage on both sides.
As for Jerusalem, it must remain the capital of Israel, with the
Muslim holy places being extra-territorial to a Muslim authority, and
an Arab quarter, with a guarantee from the United Nations of
preserving that position, by force if necessary.
16 October 1997
(c) The Isaiah Berlin Literary Trust 1997