The Hitler thread --> Shades of Zionism

Chris Brady cdbrady at
Thu May 22 14:12:39 MDT 2003

Thanks, I think I understand, David, and I respect your sources.
I met Lenni Brenner at a Socialist Scholars Conference many years ago.
He was engaged in a shouting match with Sam Farber --about Lenin.  I
think most of us on this list would have agreed with Brenner on that
one.  I find it MORE than ironic that a new and palpably real, fascist
“IRON WALL” is—this very second—in the process of construction through
the heart of Palestine.

I would offer a caveat, though, in the use of the words “ALL” and “ONLY”
in our research conclusions of history, especially in the area we are
discussing at the moment (which is not meant by me as a diversion,
please be assured, but on point).  There were shades of meaning and
shifts in associations—both mental and social.  For example, the
Furriers Union in New York—reputedly a deep red union, with a
rank-and-file of Yiddishkeits—supported the establishment of Israel in
the 1940s (Ursula Wasserman, “Socialism via Kibbutzim,” Monthly Review,
Vol.III, No.7, December, 1951, p.205.).  But when in the Forties?  That
was after the war.

My investigations reveal that the Second World War--or rather the
Holocaust in particular--traumatized even socialist Jews past a
threshold point.  This may seem a commonplace to one in Brooklyn, with a
Jewish family, but it cannot be overemphasized in the context of the
discussion.  Already inured to some degree of anti-Semitism in their
daily lives, they saw that tendency max out as photographs from
concentration camps hit the pages of the press in May of 1945.  Thus we
see Leo Huberman's sympathies as symptomatic of that “Zionist flip” in
the red circles of post-war Jews.

>From my notes I found a Huberman book review from before the war.  It
appeared in New York Teacher published by the famously red Teachers
Union of New York (TU, Local 5).  In his review of “Some of My Best
Friends Are Jews”  by Robert Gessner (N.Y., 1937), Huberman chided
Gessner with the Marxist observation that there was no real ‘one’ Jewish
culture but “a Jewish capitalist’s culture and a Jewish workers’
culture.”  He proceeded to warn his New York teacher readers, a very
high proportion of whom were Jewish, that “Zionism is not the answer to
the Jewish problem.”  Such an anti-Zionist review would not have been
published in Jewish Frontiers.  A letter from a reader and a review of
the same book in Jewish Frontiers by A. Duker called assimilationists
“warped” and “self-abusive,” and attacked Huberman’s scholarship.
(Norman Finkelstein would be familiar with the ad hominem attacks of his
Zionist antagonists.)  Huberman ignored them.  He maintained that there
was a dangerous nationalism in Palestine, and the same capitalist
relations in society.  Jewish and Arab workers were not uniting.  But in
the Soviet Union anti-Semitism is disappearing because class divisions
are being eliminated. Classless society is the only way out.
(see Huberman of review “Some of My Best Friends Are Jews” in New York
Teacher, March 1937, pp. 23-24.)

This episode is interesting, though.  Huberman did not go as far as
Trotsky in describing (then) proto-Israel as “the charnel house of the
Jews,” but his approach to Israel after the Holocaust changed, and his
picture of anti-Semitism in the USSR also changed. (SEE: Monthly Review
March and April of 1953, Joshua Kunitz’s two-part essay on “The Jewish
Problem in the USSR” subsequently issued as an MR pamphlet on Soviet
Anti-Semitism).  Huberman and Sweezy wrote in the introduction to the
Part I, “There really is a Jewish problem in the USSR.”

I should add (especially in light of how many progressives have been
duped by the machinations of the US Government as regards “Castro’s
Cuba”) that there have been studies of late that indicate the
opportunistic irritation of anti-Semitism in the Communist European
republics –by Zionists—right around the time, or just prior to, that MR
campaign against anti-Semitism in the USSR.  For educational purposes, I
take the liberty to quote a block of text from a review that is fully
attributed at the end:

     “Nehemiah Levanon, in his article on Israel's role in the campaign,
reveals that the Mossad set up a Liaison Bureau in 1952 with the
responsibility of working through the embassies behind the iron curtain
in order to establish contact with Jews in the Soviet Union and Eastern
Europe and to stimulate aliyah. By 1965, the bureau had not only
succeeded in fueling Jewish nationalism inthe Soviet Union, but had
also, in Levanon's words, "laid the foundation for a worldwide network"
(75). Levanon himself was posted in Washington, where his "main task was
to keep the State Department, Congress, and influential news media
informed on the fate of the Jews in the Soviet Union, and to seek
sympathetic and active support from them for our cause" (77). This
fascinating article may help provide valuable information on the origins
of Soviet accusations of a Zionist-American conspiracy that began to be
aired in the spring and fall of 1952.”

 From: Murray Friedman and Albert D. Chernin, eds. A Second Exodus: The
American Movement to Free Soviet Jews. Brandeis Series in American
Jewish History Culture and Life. Hanover and London: Brandeis University
Press, 1999.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Veidlinger, Department of History, Indiana
University. Published by H-Judaic (January, 2000)

I noted Izzy Stone’s postwar Zionism and relate it to Huberman’s support
for the establishment of the Jewish state; they were friends in a
milieu.  To Huberman and to so many other British and American Jewish
leftists riveted by Izzy Stone’s Exodus narrative, Haganah and Irgun
were like Tito’s romantic Yugoslavian partisans fighting alone between
the rocks and the sea. Huberman did not appear to know about the Israeli
Zionists’ “Plan D” of 1948: the expulsion of the Arabs from the Promised
Land by a program of murderous terror (I could pour in information on
this subject, but I assume we are all too well aware of this awful
history.  Others are not, however, as they have swallowed the myth of
Israeli victimhood utilized by Zionist propaganda.  That is why I
mention the original intentions of some "red Zionists" and how there
hopes went awry.).

Albert Einstein was of their ilk.  It is, or should be, well-known that
Einstein wrote his highlighted essay “Why Socialism” for the inaugural
issue of Monthly Review.  Einstein was adamant about the need to include
Arabs with all equal rights.  And he and the rest I’ve alluded to point
to a Zionist red left (contradictory as it may seem to us now, but I
will get to that when I mention Paul Sweezy below).  His opposition to
the violence of the reactionary right was clear from his letter to the
New York Times warning American Jews about Menachem Begin’s terrorism.

On December 4, 1948 The New York Times published a letter signed by
Albert Einstein, among other renowned pro-Zionists, who warned of the
fascism inherent to the then-new Herut (Freedom) Party in Israel created
by Menachem Begin: “...a political party closely akin to its
organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the
Nazi and Fascist parties... [no matter what they say] It is in its
actions that a terrorist party betrays its real character... A shocking
example was their behavior in the village of Deir Yassin... The Deir
Yassin incident exemplifies the character and actions of the Freedom
Party... they have preached an admixture of ultra-nationalism, religious
mysticism, and racial superiority ... in light of the foregoing
considerations, it is imperative that the truth about Mr Begin and his
movement be made known in this country. It is all the more tragic that
the top leadership of American Zionism has refused to campaign against
Begin’s efforts. [L. Brenner, The Iron Wall 179].”  Caveat ignored, the
Herut Party became the major power of the governing Likud Bloc in the
Knesset in the late 1980s and early 1990s, in effect the terror
government of Israel.

Paul Sweezy told me Huberman was pro-Israel.   This was one of the few
disagreements between the two MR editors. But Sweezy hastened to advise
that early on the possibility seemed quite real that Israel could be a
socialist state.  (Sweezy telephone interview, April 1997)

Huberman was not the only Holocaust horrified Jew who yearned for a
place where Jews could be safe from Jew-baiting, or Jew-burning. Nor was
he the only socialist who thought the British Mandate of Palestine
could be worked into a better kind of state, one not only free of
prejudice but just and humane politically and economically for all its
citizens. To his last days he appealed to Jews and Arabs, and Americans
and socialists everywhere to recognize that the enemy was not the
Israeli state per se but the capitalist system that divided people
against people.  As Zeev Sternhell observes, however, the primary
objective of on-the-ground Zionist politicians in postwar Palestine was
the establishment of a state of, by, and for Jews first and foremost.
The socialists in the ranks of the soldiers of the new state would be
mustered out as soon as their part was played.  (Ze’ev Sternhell.  The
Founding Myths of Israel: Nationalism, Socialism, and the Making of the
Jewish State  (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press: 1998).

The official incorporation of the terrorists of the extreme right wing
of Zionism into the new Israeli Defence Forces coincided with the
expurgation of the Zionist left. As Haganah adventurists such as Sharon
and Dayan were elevated through the ranks, experienced leftist Haganah
and Palmach leaders such as Yisrael Galili, Yigal Allon, Shimon Avidan,
and Yigael Yadin, all battle-hardened veterans, were squeezed out of the
army by Ben-Gurion. Despite Allon’s victory over the Egyptian Army,
Ben-Gurion forced him to retire; Allon had been abroad after the war in
1949 when Ben-Gurion replaced him with Moshe Dayan as commander of the
southern front. The right wing was rising.  ZIonist historian Ze’ev
Schiff claimed that the rightist recruits from the Irgun and LEHI found
difficulty in rising through the ranks during the early 1950s,
intimating that their politics stood in their way and gave them a bad
reputation in the regular armed services. (Ze’ev Schiff, A History of
the Israeli Army: 1874 to the Present (New York: MacMillan, 1985): 47.)
The causes may have had as much to do with being blocked because they
were unfamiliar to the regular servicemen, as well as unaccustomed with
the politics of a larger, more disciplined organization.  But they got
over it.  Shamir remains the prime example.

Far from a socialist state qualified by generous inclusion, the Israel
of today is characterized by policies that call into question whether
Leo Huberman, Izzy Stone or Harold Laski would even be admitted as bona
fide Jews.  Huberman decried the bris as "barbaric", and Bar and Bas
Mitzvahs as tribal remnants of a superstitious past.  Those who hound
Norm Finkelstein and Noam Cjomsky as “self-hating Jews” and “Jewish
anti-Semites” would include Leo Huberman with them.  But hyper-Jews’
charges of past Slavic anti-Semitism suddenly curdle as graphic images
came in from Haifa of its brothels of sex slaves imported from ex-Soviet
states.  Their patrons are mainly orthodox Jews—those who would deny the
Jewishness of nonreligious red Jews like Leo (and Louis).  Prostitution
there is a hugely profitable business, but the panderers pay their young
prostitutes as much as they wear –barely anything (New York Times; ABC
Twenty-Twenty. March 18, 1998.)  Would this be Huberman’s idea of a
homeland for the Jews?

Or a shandar for the Goyim?

My investigations into a red Jewish left in the early history of the
state of Israel continue, and my questions about its fate remains.  The
working class of Israel has suffered from the protracted wars of the
fascist Zionists, and they are as trapped by the situation as any.  For
years the quality of life for the masses has steadily deteriorated in
Israel. But their liberation will come with the socialist liberation of
Palestine.  I’m sure that our red erstwhile Zionists would agree if they
were alive today.

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