Zionism, twin of antisemitism
Andrew Hornung, SO 109, 18.11.82
Andrew Hornung reviews Tony Greenstein's pamphlet 'Zionism - anti-semitism in Jewish garb'.
Chief Rabbi Emmanuel Jacobowitz was once asked by a BBC interviewer whether there was any difference between being anti-Israel and being antisemitic. 'In theory that is possible', he replied, 'in practice it isn't.'
Earlier this year, a Jewish shopper in Regent Street, no doubt impelled by the same view, insisted that police arrest Labour Committee on Palestine members who were picketing the Israeli state airlines in protest at the invasion of Lebanon.
'I want you to arrest these people, officer, for stirring up racial hatred. They are anti-Semites,' he confidently asserted, undaunted by the fact that the people he was pointing to said they were Jewish.
Tony Greenstein's pamphlet, 'Zionism, antisemitism's twin in Jewish garb' is an attempt to give the lie to the equation made by Jacobowitz; and to show, on the contrary, that early Zionists particularly collaborated regularly with anti-Semites.
Now people aren't convinced of the wrong headedness of Zionism today by having it pointed out to them that Theodore. Herzl, the founder of Zionism, negotiated with the notorious Russian anti-Semite von Plehve and with the Czarist minister, Count Witte, who openly boasted that 'If it were possible to drown six or seven million Jews in the Black Sea I would be perfectly happy to do so...'
But the pamphlet also reveals that far from being a road to emancipation for Jews, Zionism has always constituted an obstacle to emancipatory movements.
The establishment of the state of Israel was not only the culmination of a colonial drive whose victims were the people of the Arab East, but the foul fruit of a movement that set its face against all progress for Jews in Europe.
Zionism began in an age in which quack science looked to physiology for many of its answers. Phrenology and palmistry aspired to be scientific pursuits, and theories were developed according to which criminal behaviour was the outcome of certain physical features.
Thus Pinsker, a pioneer Zionist, could write in 1882 that "Judophobia is... a mental disease, and as a mental disease it is hereditary, and having been inherited for 2,000 years, it is incurable".
Herzl came to the same conclusion as Pinsker: the Jews were not to be assimilated; gentile society rightly rejected them. So they had to become a colonising force which, under the protection of imperialist-colonialist powers, would create a Jewish state. In his diaries, Herzl wrote, ″In Paris... I achieved a freer attitude towards anti-Semitism, which I now began to understand historically and to pardon. Above all, I recognise the emptiness and futility of trying to 'combat' anti-Semitism.″
With blackhearts like von Plehve and Witte, early Zionism shared the assumptions that racial persecution was inevitable - and the view that socialism was to be opposed.
Tony Greenstein quotes from Herzl's diaries again: "Herzl told von Plehve, 'Help me faster to land and the revolt will end. So will the defection (of Jews) to the socialist ranks'.″
Two decades on, Zionism proved no less intransigent in its attitude towards revolutionary socialism. The Zionist Organisation in Palestine in 1921 was glad to see the arrest and deportation of leaders of the Jewish Communist Party by the British authorities.
Three years later the fledgling Histadrut (the Jewish trade union movement in Palestine and then Israel) expelled members of the Palestine Communist Party.
Even those trends within Zionism which claimed to be socialist collaborated with the British both against the Arabs and against Jewish revolutionaries. The petty-bourgeois nationalist 'socialism' of these trends gloried in pseudo-radical phrases concerning 'liberation of the land' and 'non-exploitation of Arab labour', when all this meant was the snatching of land from those who actually worked it and debarring Arabs from employment. The contradiction between the radical phrases and the reactionary reality is well-brought out in this quotation from David HaCohen, a leading Labour Zionist.
“I had to fight my friends on the issue of Jewish socialism to defend the fact that I would not allow Arabs in my Trade Union... to defend preaching to housewives that... they should not buy at Arab stores; to defend that we stood guard at orchards to prevent Arab workers from getting jobs there... to pour kerosene on Arab tomatoes; to attack Jewish housewives in the markets and smash Arab eggs they had bought... to take Rothschild, the incarnation of capitalism, as a socialist and to name him the 'benefactor'... to do all that was not easy...″
The image of the Nazi daubing Jewish shops with the slogan 'Don't buy Jewish' here finds its grotesque parallel in the Jewish 'socialist' ruining the Arab crops and telling Jewish 'housewives' 'Don't buy Arab'...
But Zionism did not simply replicate some features of German antisemitism, it collaborated with it.
The Nazis were well aware that the Zionists were not their enemies. In 1935 Heydrich ordered the activities of the Zionist orientated youth organisations are not to be treated with the same strictness that it is necessary to apply to the members of the so-called German Jewish organisations (the assimilationists).
In line with this policy the Zionists were put in control of Jewish representative bodies, because, as Hannah Arendt put it, 'according to the Nazis, Zionists were the decent Jews since they too thought in national terms'.
A Jewish police force was established to bring in those unwilling to be sent to concentration camps.
Through the period of the holocaust, the Zionist organisations set out not to rescue Jews but to rescue Jews, preferably young ones, who wanted to go to Palestine...
The Jewish Agency consciously decided in the midst of the most terrible carnage the world had ever witnessed that they should concentrate on making propaganda for a Jewish state rather than give aid to Jews in desperate need. As an ex chairperson of the Chief Rabbi's Rescue Committee wrote in The Times in 1961: ‘My experience in 1942/3 was wholly in favour of a British readiness to help openly, constructively. and totally, and that this readiness met with opposition from Zionist leaders who insisted on rescue to Palestine as the *only* form of help.' (My emphasis - AH)
At every stage Zionism, while it reflected the emancipatory hopes of some Jews, sided with reaction, refused to rally resistance and played an ignominious part in ensuring that there could be no escape... except via Palestine.
Tony Greenstein's pamphlet provides irrefutable evidence of the reactionary nature of Zionism in terms of the interests of Jews. He takes for granted that the colonising pro-imperialist project of Zionism had wholly reactionary results for the people of the Arab East, above all the Palestinians.
The weakness of the pamphlet arises out of its initial intention - to reply to the jibes coming, for the most part, from Jews. In attempting to counter, the common charges levelled against anti-Zionists by Jews, the author some times fails to give a balanced assessment...
For instance, he rightly attacks the nationalist ideas of Zionism. But what makes Zionism reactionary is not its nationalist character alone.
After all, the Garvey movement in America (and beyond) was a profoundly progressive one - despite Garvey's announced intention not to stay to fight American racism but to organise emigration to a 'Negro Zion', despite Garvey's contact with the Ku Klux Klan, and despite a certain inverse racism.
Why - I can almost hear the question being asked by people like Jacobowitz - pick on Jewish nationalism? Tony Greenstein isn't sufficiently explicit about what makes Zionism different.
Zionism's unremittingly reactionary character arises out of the fact that:
firstly, it teamed up with imperialism to establish and maintain itself where other national movements fought imperialism to gain liberation;
secondly, because Zionism was a colonial movement of Europeans it inevitably became an instrument for the denial of the national rights of millions of Arabs;
thirdly, unlike Garveyism, for instance, it did not draw hundreds of thousands - even millions - into political struggle but out of it;
and fourthly, its class composition and dependence on Diaspora capital as well as imperialism meant that from the beginning Zionism was virtually devoid of those class contradictions that remain live within nationalist mass movements in spite of their nationalism.
Lastly, because the author is at pains to fling back the accusations of Jews, the pamphlet - its title immediately reveals this - is too much concerned to deal with the events of the first half of this century. Too little is said about, say, Zionism in the last ten years.
The last six months have revealed the open collaboration between the fascist inspired Phalange and the Israeli forces; the blitzkrieg and the butchery have reminded less-blinded Israelis of the hellfire of Hitlerism.
Such will always be those living proofs of the nature of Zionism that might be capable of raising a movement to oppose it, stronger and more compelling than the most thorough historical research.
More demonology than Marxism
Jeremy Green, SO 112, 9.12.82
Comrade Andrew Hornung's review of Tony Greenstein's pamphlet 'Zionism - antisemitism in Jewish Garb' was almost as bad as the pamphlet itself. Both present a picture of Zionism as an evil conspiracy rather than as tragic illusion; their accounts have more in common with demonology than with Marxism.
The version of history they offer is of Zionism as a consciously reactionary group, seeking actively to promote antisemitism, work together with antisemites, and suppress Jewish resistance in order to achieve their aims.
For Greenstein and Hornung, Zionists have always lined up with anti-socialist forces. Any indication, any evidence that there were contradictions in Zionism, that there was any more to it than this. are resolutely ignored. Thus, from Greenstein we don't learn about the left Zionists who fought side by side with Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War (mentioned by Trotsky) or the Zionists who went from Palestine to fight in defence of the Spanish Republic.
And while we are told a lot about Zionist 'collaboration' with the Nazis, we hear nothing of the Zionists who organised Jewish partisan groups in the forests and ghettos of Poland - including Zionists from Palestine like Hannah Senesh who were parachuted into Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe specifically to organise Jewish resistance.
The argument about Zionist 'collaboration' with Nazis is based on:
1. Quotes from Nazi sources hardly reliable on Jewish matters anyway), all some years before the Nazis decided on extermination as the 'final solution' to the 'Jewish problem'.
2. The desperate behaviour of Jews faced with mass extermination. To argue that this is evidence of sinister conspiratorial deals between antisemitic Nazis and antisemitic Zionists is quite simply sick.
Moreover, there is hardly an indication as to the origins and mass appeal of Zionism.
Both Greenstein and Comrade Hornung seem to want to obscure the fact that Zionism grew up among Jewish communities of Eastern Europe faced with a degree of murderous persecution almost unique to European history. Fifty years before Hitler, mass slaughter of Jews was a regular occurrence in Eastern Europe.
Thus Pinsker's 'Auto Emancipation', quoted by Greenstein as evidence of Zionist racism towards non-Jews, appeared in 1882, as a response to the Kishinev and Odessa pogroms, in which literally thousands of Jews were murdered. Greenstein ignores this. In the absence of this context, Zionism must indeed seem like a conspiracy.
Greenstein ignores the way in which the failure of the labour movement to fight antisemitism, and the support given to immigration controls by socialists anxious to prevent Jewish refugees from coming to Britain, lent plausibility to Zionist arguments.
Finally, Comrade Hornung takes Greenstein to task for ignoring the last ten years of Zionism. A similar complaint might be made against his own account of antisemitism.
Over the last few years, Jewish people have been killed all over Europe, sometimes by so-called 'communist' groups, acting in the name of anti-Zionism. Fascist antisemites have made 'Zionist conspiracies' a central part of their world view, and argued that anti-Jewish racism must be balanced against 'Jewish racism'.
In order for socialists to convincingly claim to Jews that we are anti-Zionists and not antisemites, we have to fight hardest against real antisemitism. We have to purge our writing of comments which have the rhetorical flavour of antisemites. We have to understand sympathetically the Jews and aspirations of Jews. In his review Comrade Andrew Hornung fails to do all these things.
Brenner on the Nazi massacre
Gerry Ben-Noah [Jeremy Green], SO 199, 4.10.84
Gerry Ben-Noah reviews Lenni Brenner's books 'Zionism in the Age of the Dictators' and 'The Iron Wall'.
Denial of the holocaust has become the stock-in-trade of the far right in Europe and the USA, from Richard Harewood's 'Did Six Million Really Die?' to Arthur Butz's 'The Hoax of the Century'. That pro-Nazis should seek to excuse their heroes of one of the greatest crimes in history can hardly be surprising.
What is remarkable, however. is the recent emergence of a "left-wing" version of holocaust revisionism.
At the most extreme, a French Trotskyist defends Robert Faurisson's right to deny the existence of gas chambers and extermination camps. More often, though, the "left" revisionists do not deny that the holocaust happened: they merely argue for a redistribution of responsibility for the tragedy. They suggest that the Nazis were not solely to blame for the disaster that befell the Jewish people. Zionism, too, must share the guilt.
Now, in fact, various Zionist leaders did calculate that antisemites would for their own reasons collaborate with them. They understood that there was logical common ground between Zionism and anti-semitism - old-fashioned, central-European, pre-Nazi Christian antisemitism - in that both rejected assimilation.
Zionism was generated by antisemitism. Then, once embarked on their project of removing the Jews to Palestine, out of reach of the anti-semites, the Zionist leaders made hard-headed calculations and assessments of the world they lived in, seeking to find ways of realising their programme.
Thus Zionist leaders had discussions with ministers of the viciously anti-semitic Tsarist government, with Von Plehve, for example.
In the same way the Zionists have allied in succession with Turkish, British and then US imperialism. Brutal realism and cynical realpolitik in the service of their central goal of creating the Jewish state has always characterised the central leadership of the Zionist movement. It has led to shameful episodes and unsavoury contacts.
The realpolitik of the Zionist leaders - together with a slowness to realise that older strains of anti-semitism had evolved in to the lethal, genocidal Nazi variant, with which there could be no accommodation - may well have helped blunt the response of European Jews to Nazism.
But to go on from this tragic confusion to identify Zionism and anti-semitism, to place the moral or political responsibility - or any share of it - on the Zionist Jews for Hitler's holocaust of European Jewry - that is hysterically and obscenely stupid.
Yet that is what the new revisionism - at its sharpest when it stops playing with hollow, abstract logical identification between Zionism and anti-semitism and bases itself on the historical facts - concludes and now proclaims to the world.
It is important to recognise that, whilst holocaust revisionism is absolutely central to the ideology of the far right, "left" revisionism remains - so far - a marginal and aberrant belief within the socialist movement.
Until now, it has been propagated only by scattered articles in the "Workers Revolutionary Party" press, or by quaintly titled pamphlets such as Tony Greenstein's 'Zionism: antisemitism's Twin in Jewish Garb'. Until now, it has looked like the work of cranks.
Until now. Lenni Brenner, 'left' revisionism's newest recruit, is a Jew, whose books have all the appearance of serious works of history and are published (expensively) by commercial publishers.
Both the books argue, with apparent authority, that Zionists did not fight back against anti-semitism because they were in sympathy with it. According to Brenner, the Zionists saw anti-semites as nationalists like themselves, with a common objective in the removal of the Jews from Europe and a similar evaluation of the intrinsic worth of diaspora Jewry.
Where does one begin to review work like this? The revisionists of the right have shown how easy it is to contest and even subvert what had seemed unassailable historical facts. For, of course, very little history can survive scepticism of this kind, based on the rejection of any evidence one does not like.
Now Brenner does not, by and large, engage in this kind of revisionism. Brenner's unique contribution to historical revision lies in the sense he makes of events.
Most of the events he refers to are real and publicly known. They have been described before by pro-Zionist writers, notably Hannah Arendt in 'Eichmann in Jerusalem'. (This is not to say that a sizeable catalogue of inaccuracies and contradictions within the Brenner corpus could not be assembled - but such an exercise would miss the point).
Brenner's theory of Zionist-Nazi congruence rests upon two sets of phenomena: the actions of individual collaborators who were Zionists, and the policies of Zionist organisations which, for him, were lacking in anti-Nazi resolution.
With the benefit of hindsight, it is, of course, easy to see that many Zionists underestimated the Nazis. They thought the new anti-semitism would be like the old; brutal, humiliating and dangerous for individual Jews. They could not and did not conceive of the annihilation that was to come. Thus, their strategy was based on a series of assumptions about the immediate prospects for Europe's Jews which was horribly wrong.
To move from this tragic confusion, however, to the suggestion that they were unconcerned about the fate of those Jews is absurd. To argue that they were therefore in sympathy with the Nazis is bizarre.
It would be foolish to deny that there were Zionists who collaborated. So, no doubt, did some Communists, Bundists and liberals. In the nightmare world of Nazi Europe many people did bad things to save their own lives or those of people they loved.
For Brenner, though, these individual acts of collaboration are expressions of the inner logic of Zionism. Individual or collective acts of anti-fascist resistance by Zionists on the other hand. are dismissed as merely historical accidents, exceptions that in some unexplained way prove the rule.
It would be trivially easy to write a similar account of the "inner logic" of capitalist democracy, or of Marxism, which proved to this standard their affinity with Nazism. Such accounts have little to do with serious history.
Brenner claims to be opposed to Jewish, Arab and every other kind of nationalism. Perhaps he is so far from nationalism that he does not feel the need to avoid racial slurs, which he sprinkles throughout his writing. Thus, the inter-war Palestinian Arab leadership were not only ″a parasitic upper class" but also "classic levantines" (Iron Wall p.57); and the Palestinian Arabs as a whole had a "low level of culture" (ibid p.65). As for the Jews: "... the old Jewish slums were notoriously filthy: 'Two Jews and one cheese make three smells' was an old Polish proverb. Karl Marx was only being matter-of-fact when he remarked that 'The Jews of Poland are the smeariest of all races'." (ibid p.11).
For a self-proclaimed socialist to repeat anti-semitic Polish proverbs as matters of fact is simply incredible. Such remarks are frequent in Brenner and range from the paranoid: the suggestion that rich Jews control the US Democratic Party and thus American foreign policy - to the merely unpleasant Agudat Israel demanding from the Likud "their pound of flesh" (p.207) as the price for parliamentary support.
There is, then, a curious ambivalence in Brenner's writing. He censures Zionism for despising Jews and on the other hand he clearly despises them himself. Similarly, he characterises the Zionist Revisionists as near-fascists, and cites quotes from anti-revisionist Zionists to establish this. But he also argues that the Revisionists were the most authentic Zionists, closest to the inner logic of the movement.
Therefore, the opposition of the Labour Zionists to Revisionism, of which good use is made in proving the latter to be reactionaries, is then dismissed as either bad faith or false consciousness. Either Labour's disagreements with Jabotinsky's followers were entirely tactical, a contest over who should control the colonialist venture - or the left simply did not appreciate, as Brenner can appreciate, that they were really just logical Zionist-Revisionists.
For a Marxist, Brenner places enormous weight on his own ability to critically examine other people's psyches across the years. (This ability is not restricted to the minds of Labour Zionists; Brenner also "shows" that Betar was fascist by reference to the mental states of a hypothetical "average Betari" (ZAD.p.114).
We are also offered a psychoanalysis of Jabotinsky: "... there was nothing ambiguous about Jabotinsky's oral fixation... he hated mathematics and was always undisciplined as a student: the infallible signs of oral fixation... He had other stigmata of the fixation... he became hopelessly addicted to detective stories and westerns." (Iron Wall, p.6).
This is the sort of thing that gets psychoanalysis a bad name. It reveals, too, that underneath the glossy covers Brenner's work is every bit as crankish as former attempts to construct a "socialist" version of historical revisionism.
Why, then, has it any credibility? A comment by Isaac Deutscher offers a clue:
"The anti-Zionist urged the Jews to trust their gentile environment, to help the 'progressive forces' in that environment... and so hope that those forces would effectively defend the Jews against anti-semitism ... The Zionists on the other hand dwelt on the deep-seated hatred of non-Jews and urged the Jews to trust their future to nobody except their own state. In this controversy Zionism has scored a terrible victory, one which it could neither wish nor expect." (The Non-Jewish Jew. p.91).
Brenner, like most socialists, wishes that this victory had not happened. But instead of thinking seriously about what kind of socialist strategy could win the Jews away from Zionism, he constructs a fantasy-world in which the Zionists did wish for and expect the holocaust, and in which the most fanatical Jewish nationalists were, in reality, ardent anti-semites.
All of this would undoubtedly be an interesting case-study for psychoanalysts. Marxists would be better off by turning to Nathan Weinstock's 'Zionism, False Messiah'.
Tony Greenstein and Andrew Hornung, SO 208, 6.12.84
Tony Greenstein and Andrew Hornung take up a debate with Gerry Ben Noah's review (SO 199) of Lenni Brenner's books Zionism in the Age of the Dictators' and 'The Iron Wall'
To reply to Gerry Ben Noah's review article, "Re-writing the holocaust" (SO 199), we shall ignore some of the detailed remarks concerning, for instance, Lenni Brenner's books. On some of these questions Ben Noah is right, on others wrong - most of the time his points are simply not relevant.
What we are concerned with are the central issues raised by Brenner and others and raised again by Ben Noah; we are concerned with the ″sense he makes" (to use Ben Noah's own phrase) of the history of Zionism.
A second preliminary remark: for an article that accuses certain writers of creating a grotesque “amalgam" - of equating Zionism with anti-Semitism - the review itself offers a pretty bizarre example of this very technique when it equates Nazi apologists who rewrite the history of the holocaust (note the title!) with people with a proven record of combatting racism including anti-Semitism.
Running through the article is the argument that there exists a "left" anti-Semitism equivalent to that of the right, as if the Left has, from the days of Marx onwards, constituted a second wing of anti-Semitism.
While examples of anti immigrant campaigning of a decidedly anti-Semitic character are not hard to find before World War 2, it is the Left, the working class movement, that has proved the most consistent opponent of anti-Semitism.
Indeed, here we have the whole issue in a nutshell: it is the Left (with all its imperfections) that has been the opponent of anti-Semitism while the self-styled movements of national salvation of the Jews, Zionism, has manifestly failed.
That Zionism should seek to falsify this - indeed, claim the contrary - is not surprising. How else should it justify itself? By its colonial conquests alone?
This distortion - the picture of "left" anti-Semitism - is peddled by the Jewish establishment in Britain today. Firstly, it serves as a cover for their own inactivity in fighting the real anti-Semites of the fascist and Tory Right. Whether it has been the Lewisham demonstration of 1977, the formation of the ANL, the fight to exclude Patrick Harrington from North London Polytechnic or other situations where a stand against racism and fascism needed to be made, the British Board of Deputies - the overwhelmingly Zionist "representatives″ of the Jewish community in Britain - has opposed them.
The simplest justification for their refusal to fight has always been to claim, falsely, that the Left who organised opposition in these cases is anti-Semitic because it is anti-Zionist.
Of course, the inactivity of the BoD today is hardly different from the inactivity of the BoD before it was overwhelmingly Zionist. Zionism does not determine - in the above cases - the BoD's stand entirely, rather it gives an ideological cover to its inactivity.
Secondly, Zionism justifies its general programme by claiming that no country, no regime and no social movement can provide a solution to the Jewish question because all are inevitably anti-Semitic. It is one of the many crimes of Stalinism that anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union under Stalin appeared to prove the truth of this view. The consequences of this for Soviet opposition movements can be felt to this day.
Just as it is ludicrous to place the Left in the same camp as the Right when it comes to antisemitism, so it is nonsense to talk of a "left" version of fascist revisionism which seeks to deny the holocaust took place. What some Leftists are, however, trying to do is measure Zionism against its implicit and explicit claim to be the movement which saved Jewry and which offered a resistance to fascism that non Jewish movements could not do.
Stating that the Zionist movement - not merely individual Zionists - collaborated with the Nazis (why they did is another matter) and, more to the point, even obstructed attempts at rescue does not minimise the Nazis' guilt, as Ben Noah states.
To claim as much is like asserting that Trotsky, by insisting on the responsibility of Stalinism for Hitler's rise to power, was minimising the Nazis' responsibility for what happened as a consequence of Hitler's victory.
Or perhaps Lenin was wrong to see German Social Democracy's class collaboration as a decisive element in the victory of German imperialism over the labour movement? Perhaps he was whitewashing German imperialism!
Clearly this line of argument is simply a sentimentalist's confusion. It is utterly alien to Marxism.
Of course, the Nazis were responsible for the holocaust. The Nazis' responsibility, however, should not be used to obscure or conceal the role of others. Despite the good intentions of many Zionists - and many people joined the Zionist movement when all else had failed, more out of desperation than ideological conviction - we have to say (and Gerry Ben Noah nowhere denies it) that Zionism's starting point was the abandonment of the fight against anti-Semitism.
No wonder then that the Nazis looked to the Zionists to run the Judenrat's Jewish Councils and the Jewish police. As many have testified, they played an important part in pacifying the Jewish communities and in Hungary and elsewhere actually helped in rounding up victims. This is why the Judenrate were so despised and hated.
Let us emphasise one thing: we do not say simply (as an antisemite might) that Jews betrayed Jews. It is neither a matter merely of individual Jews nor of Jews in general - we are talking about Zionist organisations. Gerry Ben Noah's whole article bases itself on just the kind of confusion - the confusion between "Jew" and "Zionism" that he rails against.
It is essential to remember that before World War 2 Zionism was almost everywhere little more than a small trend within Jewish communities.
In order to increase the confusion, the article claims that the Polish Bund - the majority party of the Polish Jewish working class - collaborated on the same scale as the Zionists. It did not: it had a record of unswerving opposition to Nazism. Again, we are not talking about individual members but about the movements as a whole.
Ben Noah's defence of Zionism on these matters leads him to try to justify Herzl's meeting with von Plehve, the Tsarist Minister of the Interior and a noted anti-Semitic pogromist. But it won't do simply to brush this off as a "hard-headed calculation", an alliance with the devil by a movement with its back to the wall.
The fact is that Zionism sought to ally with Russian autocracy against the progressive forces amongst whom the Jewish workers and petty bourgeoisie formed a sizeable number.
Again, Ben Noah's sentimentalism breaks through. Perhaps he would prefer to see Herzl as a basically noble man. Who cares? The argument is not about good and bad persons, people acting in good or bad faith. The argument is about political affinities and political logic.
If Herzl, Weizmann - and, yes, why not? - Jabotinsky were all good people and devoted to the survival (as they saw it) of Jewry, then it is all the more clear how reactionary an ideology Zionism is when it was capable of getting the first to praise von Plehve, the second to praise Mussolini and the third to support Petlyura, the leader of the White Russians with over 200,000 Jewish lives on his hands.
Note well: Jabotinsky did not simply parley with Petlyura, he supported him against the Left!
To Ben Noah this is all "tragic confusion", the product of desperate circumstances. Weizmann's comparison of the Bolshevik Revolution with the advent of Nazism was perhaps such a "tragic confusion" - a confusion between those who outlawed pogroms and those who instigated them!
Perhaps the leaders of Hungarian Zionism whose "Rescue Department'' worked under the aegis of Eichmann and Becher and without whom Nazism could never have been so successful in their exterminatory drive in Hungary - perhaps they were also tragically confused?
Or perhaps the economic transfer agreement between Nazi Germany and the Zionist settlement in Palestine - an agreement approved by the Zionist Congress of 1935 - which helped break the anti Nazi boycott was both a "hard headed calculation" and a "tragic confusion".
The only "confusion" here is in Ben Noah's own head. And it is a double confusion: firstly, he is confused about the facts (Weizmann was well aware of the genocidal drive of Nazism as his speech in 1937 to the 20th Zionist Congress made clear) and secondly he is confused about the point under debate.
No one argues that the Zionists were just as willing to kill six million Jews as the Nazis.
The point under debate is whether or not Zionism as an ideology disarmed its followers in the face of persecution, whether it minimised the implications of anti-Semitism by its belief in the worthlessness of Diaspora Jewry (Weizmann in the above mentioned speech refers to the millions about to perish as "dust, economic and moral dust in a cruel world") and whether as a movement it didn't always put the building up of the Jewish settlement in Palestine before the saving of Jewish or other lives... even to the point of obstructing emigration if it wasn't to Palestine and of rounding up Jews for the gas chambers.
Let Gerry Ben Noah answer the simple question as to whether Zionism as an ideology and as a movement disarmed its followers in the face of fascist attack and obstructed efforts at saving Jewish lives. If he believes it did not, let him say what part of the overwhelming evidence - "events (which) are real and publicly known”, as he himself calls them is wrong.
The truth is that the over whelming evidence demonstrates that Zionist leaders were concerned about the fate of European Jewry only insofar as it concerned the establishment of a Jewish state. To understand why, it is necessary to realise that Zionism was never about saving Jews but redeeming them.
To the logical Zionist, then, a great stream of refugees to non Nazi Europe or the US could only marginalise the effort to build up a Jewish state - the precondition for ‘redeeming' Jewry from its Diaspora mentality - and threaten the existing communities in the countries of reception.
Ben Gurion put it most succinctly when he said, by way of warning the Zionist Executive at its December 17 1938 meeting: "If Jews will have to choose between the refugees, saving Jews from concentration camps, and assisting the national museum in Palestine, mercy will have the upper hand and the whole energy of the people will be channelled into saving Jews from various countries. Zionism will be struck off the agenda not only in world public opinion, in Britain and the United States, but elsewhere in Jewish public opinion. If we allow a separation between the refugee problem and the Palestinian problem, we are risking the existence of Zionism."
Ben Noah knows that such quotations can be produced in great quantity from spokes persons of every wing of Zionism. He knows Zionism opposed the anti-Nazi boycott; he knows Zionism opposed the opening of the US to Jewish refugees in excess of the numbers stipulated in pre-war rulings; indeed, he recommends to us Nathan Weinstock's excellent book, "Zionism, False Messiah" as an alternative to the books he condemns though that book tells us (p.136) that, "The role of the Zionist Organisation's refusal to contribute to the rescue of European Jewry elsewhere than in Palestine remains to be written. Sometimes, this attitude was akin to outright sabotage."
So what is he saying? That Ben Gurion was joking? That he was lying to the Executive, playing a diplomatic game as Herzl had done with von Plehve? Or simply that the coincidence between the words and actions of Zionism's leaders is just that... a coincidence, a fluke of history?
In the final analysis, all Ben Noah has to say is this: even if Zionism as an ideology aided the Nazis and other reactionaries before them and even if there are documented acts of collaboration between Zionists and reactionaries (not just diplomatic agreements), the ultimate aims of the Zionists and those of the anti-Semites were different: the former wanted to redeem Jews while the latter didn't.
Needless to say, that is not something we deny, nor is that very surprising. But that is not what the dispute is about.
A final word to Socialist Organiser. It is a good thing that you publish views that you don't agree with. This only becomes a problem when it is not clear what your own position is. Is it the position contained in a review some time ago which did not dispute the interpretation that Gerry Ben Noah attacks or is it Gerry Ben Noah's? Or have you no view at all?
It is time you pinned your colours to the mast before others do it for you.
Ignorant and libellous
Lenni Brenner, SO 234, 3.7.85
The world, she do run in funny ways. Way back on October 4 1984, your publication ran a review by one Gerry Ben Noah of my books, 'Zionism in the Age of the Dictators' and 'The Iron Wall'.
Now Ben-Noah is forced to admit that "Most of the events he (Brenner) refers to," meaning my charges that various Zionist factions collaborated with the Hitlerites, "are real". However, "This is not to say that a sizeable catalogue of inaccuracies and contradictions within Brenner's corpus could not be assembled".
Well said, except that he then kind of forgot to tell us about even one specific inaccuracy.
After wasting a page with unsubstantiated charges about my alleged errors, Ben-Noah sagely counselled us that “Marxists would be better off turning to Nathan Weinstock's Zionism: False Messiah". An excellent choice, especially as Weinstock has been kind enough to write me that my book is "a fine piece of work," and that he has tried to get it translated into French!
Ben-Noah had the audacity to call me a "paranoid". Why? Because of the suggestion that rich Jews control the US Democratic Party and thus American foreign policy".
Except that since the Democrats don't control Washington, not even a paranoid like me can think that any Democrat, Jewish or otherwise, runs Reagan's foreign policy.
However, crazy guy that I am, I do not 'suggest', I insist that rich Jews - not rich Albanians - are the single most important financial factor in the Democratic Party, and that therefore that party will stick with Zionism to the end.
But would you believe it, I'm not the only lunatic on the set. Certainly most American scholars would acknowledge G. William Domhoff as the great specialist on the country's rich. That sociologist wrote, in his 'Fat Cats and Democrats', that:
"Since the gentile financial community is almost exclusively Republican, however, it is the Jewish financiers who by default provide the Democrats with their handful of essential money raisers among the super-wealthy... Jewish investment bankers combined with other Jews... to provide the financial leadership of the Democratic Party in every major non-Southern city except Boston."
There is no need to go on, it is obvious that when Ben-Noah is not libellous he is ignorant, and when not ignorant he is libellous. All that needs to be further said is that it is evident that Zionism is in deep trouble over my charges if the Jewish Chronicle had to stoop to trying to utilise Ben-Noah's frothings to defend itself.