Zionism and Anti-Semitism

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Israel's anti-Semitic friends Tony Greenstein, The Electronic Intifada, 3 November 2009

Michal Kaminski, who opposes Poland apologizing for the massacre of hundreds of Jews in a Polish village in 1941, on a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. (ECR)

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There can be few supporters of the Palestinians, still less anti-Zionists, who haven't, at some time or another, been accused of "anti-Semitism." Accusations that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism have become little more than a ritual exercise in defamation. The danger in making such accusations is, to quote the former Director of the Institute of Jewish Policy Research, Antony Lerman, that it "drains the word antisemitism of any useful meaning." Moreover, its purpose is to discourage criticism of Israel and support of the Palestinians or risk being labeled as anti-Semitic. As I wrote two years ago, "If you cry wolf long and loud enough, when anti-Semitism does raise its head no one will bat an eyelid."
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The European political establishment, like its American counterpart, has taken to the idea that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are indistinguishable. According to the European Union's Working Definition, anti-Semitism includes: denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination (e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor), drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis, and holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel. It is ironic that the EU's definition of anti-Semitism is itself anti-Semitic!
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But the idea that "Jewish people" wherever they live, form a nation separate from the people they live amongst, because that is the meaning of self-determination, is itself an anti-Semitic concept. What is really being stated is that Jews form a race, not a nation.
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Moreover, if drawing comparisons between Israeli policies and the Nazis is anti-Semitic, then the late Marek Edelman, the Commander of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, must have been an anti-Semite. In 2002, Edelman stated publicly that Palestinian resistance fighters in the second intifada were the inheritors of the Jewish Fighting Organization of the Warsaw Ghetto.
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Similarly, since holding Jews collectively responsible for the actions of the Israeli state is indeed anti-Semitic, what then is one to make of the actions of the Board of Deputies of British Jews? On 9 January 2009 the Board of Deputies held a rally under the title "Community to Show Support for Israel at Trafalgar Square Rally."
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Zionism held that Jews were strangers in other peoples' lands and that anti-Semitism was the natural, if not justifiable, reaction to an alien presence among them. It was but a short step from this to an acceptance that anti-Semitic characteristics and caricatures of Jews were essentially correct. Indeed, the conflation of anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism is yet another irony, as historically, it was non-Jewish support of Zionism that was seen by Jews as anti-Semitic. What anti-Semites and leading Zionists said about Jews were almost indistinguishable. As A.B. Yehoshua, one of Israel's foremost novelists, stated in a lecture to the Union of Jewish Students: "Even today, in a perverse way, a real anti-Semite must be a Zionist." And from Pinhas Felix Rosenbluth, a leading German Zionist, to Arthur Ruppin, head of the Jewish Agency, Zionists have not hesitated to employ anti-Semitic rhetoric to further their cause.
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This is not so strange, because what one is talking about are in reality two entirely different forms of political philosophy with the same name -- anti-Semitism. Contrary to received opinion, there is nothing in common between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Certainly the Zionist movement has deliberately confused the two, but the former is a form of anti-racism whereas the latter is a form of racism. There can be no blurring at the edges or overlap. One is either an anti-Semite or an anti-Zionist. One cannot be both.
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Therefore, it is not surprising that today, with the growth of far right and neo-fascist parties in Europe, that almost without exception they are pro-Israel. Thus, the very people who criticize anti-Zionists and Palestinian supporters as anti-Semitic are rushing to hold the hands of Zionism's far-right supporters.
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For example Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom Ron Prossor was more than happy to share a platform at the Conservative Friends of Israel with Michal Kaminski of the Polish Justice and Freedom Party. Kaminski is notorious in Poland for openly opposing the call for an official apology for the 1941 massacre of hundreds of Jews in the Polish village of Jedwabne.
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Last month, Israel's Ambassador to the European Union, Ran Curiel, paid the first visit by an ambassador to the Kaminski-chaired European Conservatives & Reform (ECR) Group in the European Parliament. As quoted in a 13 October news post on ECR's website, Curiel told the assembled audience that "'After years of "megaphone diplomacy" between Israel and Europe, an open dialogue is the best thing we can do now.'" Furthermore, "He highly appreciated the support of the ECR Group for the two-state solution to the 'peace process' which would fully ensure the security of the State of Israel and respect the border of national states."
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Curiel's visit followed an earlier visit by Kaminski to Israel with the European Friends of Israel organization. It was Kaminski's first visit to a non-EU country as Chairman of the ECR. According to a 25 September post on the Conservative Friends of Israel's website, at a dinner held by the organization Kaminski explained that Israel was deliberately chosen as his first trip so that he could "'deliver the message that there is a group in the European Parliament that will be a true friend of Israel.'"
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Similarly in the UK, Kaminski's Zionist allies rushed to his defense last month. As the Jewish Chronicle reported on 15 October, several members of the Jewish Leadership Council were outraged when Board of Deputies President Vivian Wineman wrote a letter to David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, questioning the Tory alliance with Kaminski and his far-right Justice and Freedom Party in the European Parliament. Andrew Gilbert, one of a number of deputies who believe the letter to Cameron ill-judged, stated that "'Nobody in the Jewish or political community did enough research either to say that Michal Kaminski or Roberts Zile have suspect views, which means we should shun them, or to clear them.'"
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Nor is the Conservative party alone in embracing Israel's fascist allies. The British National Party is a growing party, with more than 50 local councilors and two members of the European Parliament. On 22 October 2009, its leader, Nick Griffin, appeared on the BBC's premier program Question Time, to a wave of protests. How did he explain away his anti-Semitism and support for holocaust denial? By explaining that though he might not be too fond of Jews, he was a strong supporter of Israel, stating that "there are Nazis in Britain and they loathe me because I have brought the BNP from being frankly an anti-Semitic and racist organization into being the only political party which in the clashes between Israel and Gaza stood full-square behind Israel's right to deal with Hamas terrorists."
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As the Guardian reported in April 2008, Board of Deputies spokesperson Ruth Smeed let readers know that "The BNP website is now one of the most Zionist on the web -- it goes further than any of the mainstream parties in its support of Israel."
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But Kaminski and Roberts Zile, of the Waffen-SS supporting Latvian Freedom and Fatherland Party, are not the exceptions. Dutch far-right anti-Islam politician and Member of Parliament Geert Wilders is another figure who combines virulent racism with Zionism. As reported in the Israeli daily Haaretz on 18 June, Wilders claimed that "Israel is only the first line of defense for the West. Now it's Israel but we are next. That's why beyond solidarity, it is in Europe's interest to stand by Israel."
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Wilders is facing criminal charges for inciting hate by comparing the Quran to Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf. After winning five seats in June parliamentary elections, Wilders's Party of Freedom is now the second largest political party in the country. Wilders has also found common cause with the right-wing openly racist political party of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Of Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party, Wilders explained that "'Our parties may not be identical, but there are certainly more similarities than dissimilarities, and I am proud of that,'" (Haaretz, 18 June 2009). He added that "'Lieberman's an intelligent, strong and clever politician and I understand why his party grew in popularity.'"
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Indeed, the only far-right party that I could find whose anti-Semitism is disguised as anti-Zionism is Jobbik, the Movement for a Better Hungary, a descendant of the pro-Nazi Nyilas. During World War II, Nyilas was responsible for the deaths of some 50,000 mainly Budapest Jews. Leaders of the party were executed by the Hungarian state after liberation. This is the party that the BNP, which "opposes anti-Semitism," is joined with in the European Parliament.
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Therefore, when Israel's Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz claims that Judge Richard Goldstone is an "anti-Semite" and that it is possible for a Jew to be an anti-Semite, he is right: the history of Zionism is indeed full of such examples!
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Tony Greenstein is a trade union activist, a member of UNISON, Brighton & Hove Trades Council and Secretary of Brighton & Hove Unemployed Workers Centre, where he works as an employment adviser. He runs a socialist, anti-Zionist blog, http://www.azvsas.blogspot.com/. Latest articles on EI:
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(Reprinted undcr FAIR USE DOCTRINE for educational exchange and non-commercial purposes.
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In June of 1895, the first entry into his new journal on Zionism, Theodor Hertzl wrote:
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"In Paris, as I have said, I achieved a freer attitude toward anti-Semitism, which I now began to understand historically and to pardon. Above all, I recognized the emptiness and futility of trying to 'combat' anti-Semitism."
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This is but one of the gems in a book entitled "Zionism In The Age of the Dictators: A Reappraisal" by Lenni Brenner, Lawrence Hill and Company, 1983.
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From Brenner's book:
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"To be a Good Zionist one must be Somewhat of an Anti-Semite:
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Although blut was a recurrent theme in pre-Holocaust Zionist literature, it was not as central to its message as boden. As long as America's shores remained open, Europe's Jews asked: if anti-Semitism could not be fought on its home ground, why should they not just follow the crowd to America? The Zionist response was double-barrelled: anti-Semitism would accompany the Jews wherever they went and, what was more, it was the Jews who had created anti-Semitism by their own characteristics. The root cause of anti-Semitism, Zionists insisted, was the Jews' exile existence. Jews lived parasitically off their 'hosts'...
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These tenets combined were known as 'shelilat ha'galut (the Negation of the Diaspora), and were held by the entire spectrum of Zionists who varied only on matters of detail. They were argued vigorously in the Zionist press, where the distinctive quality of many articles was their hostility to the entire Jewish people. Anyone reading these pieces without knowing their source would have automatically assumed that they came from the Anti-Semitic press. The Weltanschauung of the youth organization Hashomer Hatzair (Young Watchmen), originally composed in 1917, but republished again as late as 1936, was typical of these effusions:
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The Jew is a caricature of a normal, natural human being, both pysically and spiritually. As an individual in society he revolts and throws off the harness of social obligations, knows no order nor discipline. (pp 22-23)
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Similarly, in 1935 an American Ben Frommer, a writer for the ultra-right Zionist-Revisionists, could declare of no less than 16 million of his fellow Jews that:
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The fact is undeniable that the Jews collectively are unhealthy and neurotic. Those professional Jews who, wounded to the quick, igdignantly deny this truth are the greatest enemies of their race, for they thereby lead them to search for false solutions, or at most palliatives." (p. 23)
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And:
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In 1925 the most vehement protagonist of total abstentionism, Jcob Klatzkin, the co-editor of the massive "Encyclopedia Judaica", laid down the full implications of the Zionist approach to anti-Semitism.
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If we do not admit the rightfulness of antisemitism, we deny the rightfulness of our own nationalism. If our people is deserving and willing to live its own national life, then it is an alien body thrust into the nations among whom it lives, an alien body that insists on its own distinctive identity, reducing the domain of their life. It is right therefore, that they should fight against us for their national integrity...Instead of establishing societies for defense against antisemites, who want to reduce our rights, we should establish societies for defense against our friends who desire to defend our rights." (p. 30)
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Zionism and Anti-Semitism I
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From Tom Segev, "The Seventh Million: Israelis and the Holocaust" Hill and Wang, NY, 1993
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" On January 31, 1933, the day after Hitler became chancellor, the independent liberal daily 'Haaretz' decried this 'hugely negative historical event'. Ten days later it ran a headline that read, 'BLACK DAYS IN GERMANY.' The paper followed the ongoing 'anti-Semitic horror', but during those first weeks it, like the British press, generally aimed at reassuring its readers: 'One must suppose that Hitlerism will now renounce terrorist methods: government brings responsibility.' the right-wing 'Doar Hayom' agreed: 'There can be no doubt that Hitler the chancellor will be different from the Hitler of the public rallies.' But from the start, 'Davar'--the left-wing daily published by the Histadrut (Labor Federation)--was more pessimistic: 'It was a bitter and ill-fated day when the New Vandal came to power', the newspaper wrote the day after the change of government in Germany. It described Hitler as a man of hate and demagoguery who would 'tear Jews out by their roots.' " (p 17)
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"More than anything else, though, the rise of the Nazis was seen as confirming the historical prognosis of Zionist ideology. 'Hapoel Hatsair' described the nazi persecution of the Jews as 'punishment for their having tried to integrate into German society instead of leaving for Palestine while it was still possible to do so.' Now they would have to run in a panic 'like mice in flight', the paper said. 'The Jews of Germany are being persecuted now not despite their efforts to be part of their country but because of those efforts.' The holocaust would later be the primary argument fro the establishment of the State of Israel and for its wars of survival." (p. 18)
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"Ben-Gurion hoped that the Nazis victory would become 'a fertile force' for Zionism." (p. 18) "The 'haavara' ('transfer') agreement--the Hebrew term was used in the Nazi documents as well--was based on the complementary interests of the German government and the Zionist movement: the Nazis wanted the Jews out of Germany; the Zionists wanted them to come to Palestine. But there was no such mutuality of interests between the Zionists and German Jewry. Most German Jews would have preferred to stay in their country. The tension between the interests of the 'yishuv' [Jewish community in Palestine] (and, in time, the State of Israel) and those of world Jewry was to become a central motif in the story of the Israelis' attitude to the Holocaust." (p.20)
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"The revisionist right, by contrast, had long been sympathetic to Benito Mussolini's Fascism and now and then even to Adolf Hitler's Naziism--except, of course, his anti-Semitism. Betar, Jabotinsky's youth movement, fostered classic Fascist ideas and forms. In 1928, Abba Ahimeir, a well-known Revisionist journalist, had a regular column, 'From the Notebook of a Fascist', in the newspaper 'Doar Hayom'. In anticipation of Jabotinsky's arrival in Palestine, he wrote an article titled 'On the Arrival of Our Duce' " (p. 23)
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"Four years later, in early 1932, Ahimeir was among those brought to trial for disrupting a public lecvture at Hebrew University. The incident and the resulting trial are worthy of note only because of a declaration by defense attorney Zvi Eliahu Cohen in response to a speech by the prosecutor comparing the disruption of the lecture with the Nazi disturbances in Germany.
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'The comment on the Nazis', Cohen said, 'went too far. Were it not for Hitler's anti-Semitism, we would not oppose his ideology. Hitler saved Germany.' This was not an unconsidered outburst; the Revisionist paper 'Hazit Haam' praised Cohen's 'brilliant speech.' " (p. 23)
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"...[from Hazit Haam] 'Social Democrats of all stripes believe that Hitler's movement is an empty shell.', the newspaper explained, but 'we believe that there is both a shell and a kernel. The anti-Semitic shell is to be discarded, but not the anti-Marxist kernel. The Revisionists, the newspaper wrote, would fight the Nazis only to the extent that they were anti-Semites." (p. 23) -
"The haavara agreement was a central issue in the elections in the summer of 1933 for representatives to the Eighteenth Zionist Congress. The Revisionists rejected [in a turnabout] any contact with Nazi Germany. It was inconsistent with the honor of the Jewish people, they said; Jabotinsky declared it 'ignoble, disgraceful and contemptible'. The Revisionist press now castigated the Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency as 'Hitler's allies', people 'who have trampled roughshod on Jewish honor, on Jewish conscience, and on Jewish ethics...dark characters who have come to trade on the troubles of the Jews and on the land of Israel...low types who have accepted the role of Hitler's agents in Palestine and in the entire Near East...traitors...deceivers who lust after Hitler's government.' " (p. 24)
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"After reading the Nazi Party newspaper, Ben-Gurion wrote, it seemed to him that he was reading the words of Zeev Jabotinsky in Doar Hayom: 'the same thing, the same style, and the same spirit.' " (p. 24)
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"In his impassioned speech, Ben-Gurion called for the rescue of German Jewry, 'a tribe of Israel', and their transfer to Palestine, rather than action against Hitler. ' I do not believe that we can oust him and I am not interested in anything other than saving these 500,000 Jews,' he said. Ben-Gurion saw the debate between rescue and boycott as a debate between Zionism and assimilation, between the nationalist interests of Jewish settlement in Palestine and the international war against anti-Semitism. The assumption imnplicit in his words was that the war against anti-Semitism was not a part of the Zionist mission." (pp. 24-25)
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"To make his point, Ben-Gurion used harsh language that would in time be employed by anti-Zionists: 'If I knew that it was possible to save all the children in Germany by transporting them to England, but only half of them by transporting them to Palestine, I would choose the second--because we face not only the reckoning of those children, but the historical reckoning of the Jewish people.' In the wake of the Kristallnacht pogroms, Ben-Gurion commented that the 'human conscience' might bring various countries to open their doors to Jewish refugees from Germany. He saw this as a threat and warned: 'Zionism is in danger.' " (p 28)
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"Nevertheless, the pragmatists were convinced that the boycott of Germany could not advance the interests of Palestine, that their ends could best be accomplished through contact with the Nazis. Thus the leaders sought to keep relations with Nazi Germany as normal as possible: Two months after Hitler came to power the Jewish Agency executive in Jerusalem had sent a telegram straight to the Fuhrer in Berlin, assuring him that the yishuv had not declared a boycott against his country; the telegram was sent at the request of German Jewry in the hope of halting their persecution, but it reflected the Jewish Agency's inclination to maintain correct relations with the Nazi Government. Many years later, Menachem Begin revealed that the Zionist Organization had sent Hitler a cable of condolence on the death of President Hindenburg." (p. 29)
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"Traveling on to Cairo, he [Eichmann] summoned a Jew from Jerusalem, one Fiebl Folkes. A report from Eichmann wrote of his trip and the record of his interrogation by the Israeli police decades later indicate[s] that Folkes was a member of the Haganah--the clandestine Jewish defense force--and a Nazi agent. On one occasion he even met with Eichmann in Berlin. The Nazis paid him for his information, mostly rather general political and economic evaluations. Among other things, Eichmann quoted Folkes to the effect that Zionist leaders were pleased by the persecution of German Jewry, since it would encourage immigration to Palestine." (p. 30)
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"Ironically the Revisionists also had fairly wide-ranging links with the Nazis. The Betar youth movement was active in Berlin and several other German cities. About half a year before the Nazis came to power, the movement's leadership distributed a memorandum to its members that was both commonsensical and cautious. The Nazis should be treated politely and with reserve, the memorandum instructed. Whenever Betar members were in public, they should remain quiet and refrain from vocal debates and critical comments. Under no circumstances should anyone say anything that could be interpreted as an insult to the German people, to its institutions, or to its prevailing ideology.
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The Nazis allowed Betar to continue its activities--meetings, conventions, summer camps hikes, sports, sailing, and agricultural training. Members were allowed to wear their uniforms, which included brown shirts, and they were allowed to publish mimeographed pamphlets, including Zionist articles in a nationalistic, para-Fascist tone, in the spirit of the times. The German Betar pamphlets focused on events in Palestine, and their exuberant nationalism targeted the British, the Arabs, and the Zionist left. The contained no references to the political situation in Germany. With this exception, they were similar to the nationalist German youth publications, including those published by the Nazis. Jabotinsky decried the influence Hitlerism was having on the members of Betar." (pp. 32)
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In the second half of 1940, a few members of the Irgun Zvai Leumi (National Military Organization)--the anti-British terrorist group sponsored by the Revisionists and known by its acronym Etzel, and to the British simply as the Irgun--made contact with representatives of Fascist Italy, offering to cooperate against the British. Soon the Etzel split, and the group headed by Avraham "Yair" Stern formed itself into the Lehi (from the initials of its Hebrew name, Lohamei Herut Yisrael (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel), also known as the Stern Gang. A representative of this group met with a German foreign ministry official and offered to help Nazi Germany in its war against the British. The Germans understood that the group aimed to establish an independent state based on the totalitarian principles of the Fascist and Nazi regimes. Many years after he tried to forge this lik with Nazis, a former Lehi leader explained what had guided his men at the time: 'Our obligation was to fight the enemy. We were justified in taking aid from the Nazi oppressor, who was in this case the enemy of our enemy--the British.' " (p. 33)
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"The question was what to do with those refugees who were neither Zionist nor fit to help build the new society in Palestine. 'Only God knows how the poor little land of Israel can take in this stream of people and emerge with a healthy social structure', Chaim Weizmann wrote. The German Immigrants Association complained that the Jewish Agency's representatives in Berlin were giving immigration certificates to invalids. ' The human material [direct quote and their words] coming from Germany is getting worse and worse', the association charged after almost a year of Nazi rule. 'They are not able and not willing to work, and they need social assistance.' A year later the association sent to Berlin a list of names of people who should not have been sent. Henrietta Szold, who headed the Jewish Agency's social-work division, also frequently protested about the sick and needy among the immigrants. From time to time Szold demanded that certain of such 'cases' be returned to Nazi Germany so that they would not be a burden on the yishuv." (p. 43)
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"In 1937 the Joint Distribution Committee, an American organization that assisted needy Jews, negotiated with the German authorities for the release of 120 Jewish prisoners from the Dachau concentration camp. 'I am not so sure that from a political point of view it is desirable that all those released come to Palestine', a Jewish Agency official wrote to one of his colleagues. Most were not Zionists; and there may even have been Communists among them." (pp 43-44)
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"Senator [Werner Senator of the Jewish Agency] who was active in bringing German Jews to Palestine, warned the Jewish Agency office in Berlin that if it did not improve the quality of the 'human material' it was sending, the agency was liable to cut back the number of certificates set aside for the German capital. The immigrants from Germany enjoyed all sorts of special benefits, Senator wrote. They received immigration certificates after only six months of agricultural training, while in other countries up to two years was required. Requests for family reunification from Germans with relatives in Palestine were also quickly approved. All this required special attention to the quality of immigrants, who should be true pioneers. Senator was not referring to occasional errors in judgment, he assured his colleagues; he was talking about a trend. More and more ' welfare cases' were arriving from Germany, as well as too many 'businessmen with children' rather than single men and women. At one point it was decided that candidates above the age of thirty-five would receive immigration certificates 'only if there is no reason to believe that they might become a burden here.' Accordingly they had to have a profession. 'Anyone who was a merchant', the decision stated, or of similar employment, will not receive a certificate under any circumstances, except in the case of veteran Zionists.' This was in 1935. ' In days of plenty, it was possible to handle this material [emphasis added]' , explained Yitzhak Gruenbaum. 'In days of shortages and unemployment, this material [emphasis added] will cause us many problems...We must be allowed to choose from among the refugees those worthy of immigration and not accept them all.' "
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(p. 44) Footnote: "In 1939 the world press followed the drama of the St Louis, a boat carrying several hundred Jewish refugees from Germany. No country would give them asylum. The Joint Distribution Committee asked the Jewish Agency to allot the passengers several hundred immigration certificates from the quota. The Jewish Agency refused. In the end the refugees were allowed into Antwerp. [note where many were exterminated after the takeover of Belgium by the Nazis.]. (p. 44)
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" German Jews who were given immigration permits 'merely as refugees' were also considered 'undesirable human material' by Eliahu Dobkin, a Mapai member of the Jewish Agency executive. 'I understand very well the special situation in which the overseas institutions dealing with German refugees find themselves, but I would like to believe that you would agree with me that we must approach this question not from a philanthropic point of view but from the point of view of the country's needs', Dobkin wrote to one of his colleagues. 'My opinion is that from among the refugees we must bring only those who meet this condition.' Leaders of the German immigrants agreed. 'As I see it, 90 percent of them are not indispensible here', one of them wrote to another." (pp 44-45)
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"It was an incomparably cruel reality: every Jew who received an immigration certificate during those years lived in Palestine knowing that some other Jew who had not received that certificate had been murdered. This was the basis for the sense of guilt that would later trouble so many Israelis who escaped the Holocaust." (p 45)
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