Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Zionism and the Shoah - Part II

Continued from here

Criticisms of the Labor Zionists activities immediately prior to the Shoah

a) Morris Ernst (1888-1976), a human rights activist with close ties to President Roosevelt, reported the following remarks from the President:
"Well, they're right from their point of view. The Zionist movement knows that Palestine is, and will be for some time, a remittance society. They know that they can raise vast sums for Palestine by saying to donors 'there is no other place this poor Jew can go'". "But", said Roosevelt, "if there's a world political asylum for all people irrespective of race, creed or color, they can't raise their money. Because the people who don't want to give the money will have an excuse and say, 'what do you mean there's no place they can go but Palestine?' They are the preferred wards of the world".

Mr. Ernst set out to test the veracity of what he had heard and informed his Zionist friends of the White House initiative. "I assure you that I was thrown out of parlors of friends of mine. And they said very frankly, and they were right from their point of view. 'Morris', they would say, 'this is treason - you're undermining the Zionist movement.' I'd say, 'Yes, maybe I am. But I am much more interested in a haven for half a million or a million people - oppressed throughout the world." The New York Times editorialist went on to comment: "Why in G-d's name, should the fate of all those unhappy people be subordinated to a single cry of Statehood?" [Elmer Berger (no Zionist sympathizer to be sure) quoted by Rabkin, pg. 180]

b) In July 1938 President Roosevelt convened the Evian Conference to consider the problem of Jewish refugees. At that time a German offer was made to release Jews at $250 per person. The Jewish Agency, headed by Golda Meir, decided to ignore the offer.At this conference, the delegation from the Jewish Agency made no effort to influence the United States or any of the 32 other participating nations to open their gates to admit German Jews. (Rabbi Avigdor Miller, Awake My Glory)

c) Here is an excerpt from a 1938 speech of Haim Weizmann:
"Palestine cannot absorb the Jews of Europe. We want only the best of Jewish youth to come to us. We want only the educated to enter Palestine for the purpose of increasing its culture. The other Jews will have to stay where they are and face whatever fate awaits them. These millions of Jews are dust on the wheels of history and they may have to be blown away. We don't want them pouring into Palestine. We don't want Tel Aviv to become another low-grade ghetto."

{So, I, great-grandson of victims such as these at Auschwitz-Birkenau, must interject and ask:

Who dares ask of me to celebrate the day of the establishment of the State of Israel, with Weizmann as its first President, its face and 'model citizen'?

And who has the unmitigated gall to judge my loyalty to the Jewish people by whether I recite Tachanun on this day or not?

Dost thou perhaps begin to understand the Chazon Ish's statement "Shema Raui Haya LeKov'o Yom Taanis" (Perhaps it would have been more appropriate to establish it (the fifth of Iyyar) as a fast day)?

I would expect that at the very least you respect the genuine feelings of those who cannot wipe away the memory of the ignominious nascent stages of the State-to-be.}

A year earlier, Weizmann had used similar terms: "The elderly will disappear, their fate awaits them. They have no significance, either economic or moral. The elderly must reconcile themselves to their fate."

And human rights advocate Leonard R. Sussman, in The Christian Century publication, April 3 1963, states the unstatable: "Who can tell how many Jewish lives might have been saved from Hitler's claws if these anti-Jewish pressures exerted by Jews had not been effected?" [Rabkin, 181]

UPDATE: These posts make no attempt at dealing with the other side of the argument regarding the attitudes of those mentioned, because I am not aware of what proponents for the other side have to say in their defense, other than, "Yes, this was their position and they were correct in their assessment of the greater good." Or, "We cannot judge that period of history from today's vantage point".
I accept neither of these as valid. The first is terribly immoral, and the second is sickeningly amoral, in the face of evil.
If there are other avenues of defense, I look forward to hearing them.

To be continued...


Blogger Nephtuli said...

Saying Elmer Berger is no fan of Zionism is like saying Israel Shahak is no fan of Talmudic Judaism.

And let's just say quoting Rav Avigdor Miller sure didn't make this post any more balanced.

Frankly I've seen dozens of taken out of context quotes of Zionist leaders so I'm a tad skeptical.

11:08 PM  
Blogger Nephtuli said...

Oh and Rabkin isn't exactly the world's greatest Zionist either. To say these posts are unbalanced is an understatement.

11:25 PM  
Blogger Bari said...

So, please, balance them with quotes of your own! Give me all the facts I am missing!

You wouldn't expect Keren Kayemet to publicize this - would you? Give me the sources, and we'll debate it.

These are just facts. In fact, the speech by Haim Weizmann is very well known and documented in a number of places.

9:07 AM  
Blogger Nephtuli said...


If you wrote a paper and book quoting only the sources you did, it would rightfully be dismissed as propaganda. You're telling me you don't have access to Shabtai Teveth's Ben Gurion and the Holocaust? Try looking at the other side. Quoting one side is propaganda plain and simple. And while your blog is hardly the only blog to do that, let's call a spade a spade.

Regarding Weitzman's speech: We need to see context and whether those statement comport with his general ideology vis-a-vis the population makeup of the future state. One speech is not dispositive evidence of a particular viewpoint.

And I've seen dozens of statements by Ben Gurion or Rabin quoted in many secondary sources and they were all lacking context.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Bari said...

If you wrote a paper and book quoting only the sources you did, it would rightfully be dismissed as propaganda.

I am not dealing with the Revisionist Zionists during the Holocaust, who did much to save Jews. I readily admit that (in this Part II) I am delineating attitudes of the Labor Zionists.
The next part will be about Ben Gurion. I would actually very much appreciate it if you posted a counter post to refute what I have to say. I don't enjoy this angle in the least, and it goes against my upbringing. Trust me. But it MUST be part of an honest debate.

One speech is not dispositive evidence of a particular viewpoint

That is why I quote from him a year earlier. It was not a slip of the lip.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Nephtuli said...

If I wrote a post about how the Gemara is racist and only cited Israel Shahak and Stormfront, it would be propaganda, even if I asked people to submit a counterpost. You want to write a serious post on this issue? At least make an attempt to deal with the other side.

These posts remind me of all those websites that quote Rabin and Begin out of context as their evidence that Israel started the 6 day war. This stuff doesn't even remotely resemble scholarship.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Bari said...

If I wrote a post about how the Gemara is racist and only cited Israel Shahak and Stormfront, it would be propaganda, even if I asked people to submit a counterpost.

You'd be right if I refused to post your side. But blog posts are, by definition, a work meant to be completed by the commentors challenges to the points made in the post.

Consider this post the opening salvo of a debate between myself and yourself or anyone who wants to respond, with me representing this side of the debate. Not meant as a full-blown work of history.

I am giving you and anyone else an opportunity to post your side of the tale.

You want to write a serious post on this issue? At least make an attempt to deal with the other side.

I submit that there should be plenty of people on the J-Bloggosphere with the motivation and knowledge to do a better job than I, and I invite all responses and rebuttals.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Nephtuli said...

All works of scholarship are designed to faciliate give and take. That's partly why people upload their first drafts on databases like SSRN. They want to get comments, positive and negative. But no one would ever try to get a paper published that only quoted people on one side (and especially when they have serious axes to grind).

I'm not asking you to write a scholarly paper, but you're not even pretending to be objective here. That's the definition of propaganda. Yes, you're allowing people to challenge you, but your posts are still one-sided propaganda. Maybe I'll take you up on that offer when I get more time (i.e., after finals)

11:37 AM  
Blogger Bari said...

but you're not even pretending to be objective here.

Let us take a book like "From Time Immemorial" by Joan Peters as a paradigm.

She started off with the will to present the Palestinian refugees side of things, but she ended up putting out an entire book which portrays a particular angle of the Arab-Jewish conflict, with an intense focus on persecution of Jews in Arab lands, the British blind eye to illegal Arab immigration, the British reaction to the Holocaust, etc., etc. She felt the Palestinian side was the one rife with misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda.

Did she present the Arab side of the story? Not that I saw. Because she felt that the side that needed representation in the debate, which was not heard in the din of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, was that of the Jews. It was received by the readership, dissected and studied. If you consider that propaganda - so be it.

My feelings are quite similar. As I said, this side of the story counters my upbringing (which I might prefer viscerally), is at odds with the prevailing feelings toward the founders of Israel due to their Bolshevik censorship of the truth (as I pointed out in part 1) and it is a story that is considerably lacking in its representation on the J-Bloggosphere. I truly, warmly, welcome challenges from you and anyone else to disprove these facts, or balance them with actions of Labor Zionists that showed that they cared more about the Charedim of Europe's lives than about having a State. I find it hard to imagine, in light of all that I have read and learned about the likes of Weizmann, Sharett, Kastner, and Ben Gurion that you will manage to do so, but be my guest.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Nephtuli said...

Wow, you couldn't have picked a worse book to use as an example. From Time Immemorial is generally considered propaganda, even among staunchly pro-Israel advocates, partly for the reasons you cited! Any book that only deals with one side is, by definition, propaganda. A book can conclude that one side is right, but only after at least making an attempt to deal with the other side. There are books that deal with the arguments you proferred (Teveth's book is a good example). There are books that are more balanced than Rabkin or Rav Miller. Those books aren't propaganda.

Using your argument, I could write a post about Jewish law, only cite Shahak and hate sites, and my post wouldn't be propaganda because it's not a position commonly found on J-Blogs? Frankly under your definition nothing is propaganda but everything is studied and dissected by the readership.

12:32 PM  
Blogger Bari said...

So I'm in good company.:) Like I said, if you want to call it propaganda - so be it. It's just a name game.

You want to post about Israel Shahak as representative of your feelings of the truth about the Talmud - be my guest. I'll rip it. I'll show where you're wrong.

The books that I have read provide me with reason enough to believe that what I recount, while extreme in its portrayal of attitudes, is an accurate representation of the Labor Zionists and those leaders I mentioned is true.

Go ahead - provide evidence that I am mistaken. I'll be more than happy.

1:02 PM  
Blogger Bari said...



n : information that is spread for the purpose of promoting some cause

OK. Doesn't mean that it's inaccurate. I want this side of the issue to be known, and I think it is an accurate representation of the attitudes of the Labor Zionists.

Instead of just calling it names that have a negative connotation, which, while effective in deflecting criticism from being accepted, does nothing to promote the truth - show me facts.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Nephtuli said...

Hey, if you're willing to equate your work with Joan Peters I'm fine with that. As long as people reading this post understand that it's propaganda, only represents one side, and never attempted to deal with the counterarguments, I'm fine with that. I just don't want people coming here and seeing this post and thinking "hey this looks scholarly" and think it's a balanced perspective that took both sides into account. We all have the right to post propaganda.

1:17 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

and I think it is an accurate representation of the attitudes of the Labor Zionists.

I would only correct it to say" it is an accurate representation of the attitudes of these particular Labor Zionist LEADERS.

Remember, Rav Isser Zalman's own son fought in the Haggana and there were many martyrs who died al kiddush hashem removing the British from our land. The average soldier or citizen was not as extreme as these leaders whose rishus you rightly publicize.

1:18 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

btw Nephtuli,

In spite of some flaws in the scholarship of Joan Peters. Not one scholar has successfuly disproven the main contention of the book (which the data supports). Mainly, that the vast majority of Arabs who are considered refugies were recent arrivals in EY.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Bari said...

I will attempt to deal with the counterarguments when they are presented. By all means.

1:32 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

I will attempt to deal with the counterarguments when they are presented. By all means.

There are very few, the best they can come up with is some sort of disgusting realpolitic appologetics.

There is no excuse for these people and the actions they took.

2:26 PM  
Blogger Bari said...

I say as much in my update.

2:28 PM  
Blogger Nephtuli said...


I'm pleased by your update, but the argument is not just about why the Zionist leaders did what they did but whether they actually did it. It's far from universal that Ben Gurion did not want to help Europe's Jewry. In fact it's quite possible that he did all he could to help them.


As someone who is unwilling to give up land to save lives, I'm curious as to whether if you were offered a deal during the Holocaust that would have saved European Jewry, but would have meant the end of the Zionist enterprise, would you have taken it?

3:21 PM  
Blogger Bari said...

a) Where did I mention anything about Ben Gurion? If you've got some problem with the facts so far - put it out there.

b) email me some of the most flattering trivia about Ben Gurion and the Holocaust so I can consider it.

5:49 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

As someone who is unwilling to give up land to save lives, I'm curious as to whether if you were offered a deal during the Holocaust that would have saved European Jewry, but would have meant the end of the Zionist enterprise, would you have taken it?

Of course, the minchas chinuch only prohibits the abrogation of a milchemet mitzva when the pikuach nefesh of individuals is at stake. When the entire klal is at stake, it is permisible as Rav Yochanan behaved during churban bayit sheini.

But all this is hypothetical, the fact is giving up land puts more lives at risk than it saves and those Jewish who were most dedicated to the Zionist cause, namely the revisionists, were also the ones who did the most to save the Jews of Europe (and had the most success).

5:54 PM  
Blogger Nephtuli said...


And therefore your answer would be? Yes or no? And if no, where do you draw the line?


You didn't mention Ben Gurion. But I figured since he was kind of an important member of the Jewish Agency, that he might be a good paradigm to use.

8:01 PM  
Blogger Bari said...

I have nothing on BG pre Shoah.

During the Shoah, (i.e. part III), I do. (I mentioned in a previous comment I would talk about him.)

I'd appreciate you emailing me your stuff on him.

8:06 PM  
Blogger Nephtuli said...

I'm sorry but right now I really don't have time to look up the information and email it to you. I did give you the title of very good book on him (written by his chief biographer who has more access to any Ben Gurion related documents than anyone alive). But I'm didn't write a post on why BG tried to save European Jewry during the Holocaust. If I did and didn't even look at your side, I'd be writing propaganda.

8:33 PM  
Blogger Bari said...

BG's chief biographer - with the guidance of BG?

8:42 PM  
Blogger Nephtuli said...

I don't get the question. I only brought that up to point out that he knows Ben Gurion better than anyone alive and has more evidence available to him than anyone else.

8:46 PM  
Blogger Bari said...

Meaning - did Ben Gurion have a hand in dictating what to write.

I just read an NYT review of the Teveth book. Teveth openly admits he is there to be a pro-BG voice.

There is one major, disgusting, quote of BG that the reviewer claims is not rebutted persuasively by Teveth, though the reviewer does say that Teveth is persuasive in that the sum total of BG's failure to save Jews was less due to ideology than practical obstacles. (Some of which, I have demonstrated in Part I, were erected by other Zionist leaders).

8:57 PM  
Blogger Bari said...

More from Weizmann:

The following quotation of a lecture delivered by Haim Weizmann in 1935, may elucidate the philosophy underlying the policy of selected immigration: "I am afraid that we replace today the concept of rescue of jews with that of redemption...When I consider if these men [German refugees] can fit in the style of life we are creating here...I should say sincerely: No...Zionism is eternal life, whereas the rescue of thousands of Jews is not for me but temporary lives"

9:06 PM  
Blogger chardal said...


And therefore your answer would be? Yes or no? And if no, where do you draw the line?

I would never push Zionism on the back of 6 million Jews - and entire klal, an entire world was destroyed.

Where to draw the line? When the cost is catastrophic (eg. churban bayit, holocaust). The pikuach nefesh of the klal takes precedance over almost any other mitzva.

That is not the same as saying that we do not retreat from our holy land because our soldiers must risk their lives to defend it.

9:42 PM  
Anonymous Steve Brizel said...

Tom Segev's "The Seventh Million" is a fascinating indictment of the Labor Zionists and their conduct both before and during the war years.

That being said, IMO and WADR, Charedi Gdolim and their ideologic supporters operate in a strange ahistorical universe. They claim that they "knew" that Churban Europa was enroute, yet disclaim any reason why the rise of secular based anti Semitism ,Hitler, Nazism, Fascism or Communism were not seismic changes for Jewish life in Europe. They blame every other portion of the Jewish community for doing nothing on the rescue issue when in fact, they deemed noncooperation with Zionism to be sin que non and urged their followers to remain in Europe. However, as soon as the Nazis arrived, many who had urged everyone to stay in Europe abandone ship. Ironically, while R E Wasserman ZTL urged talmidim to stay in Europe as opposed to using visas which would have provided employment for them in RIETS and HTC because he viewed a spiritual danger as worse than a physical danger, The Brisker Rav ZTL, RAK, ZTL and the Mirrer yeshiva viewed escape either to then Zionist dominated EY or the treife medinah as a better decision than remaining in Europe. The bottom line was that we all failed as a community. If one was writing a book that surveyed all of the Charedi efforts, one would surely title the same "How We Won The War".

Simply stated, IMHO, the statements as to the "cause" of the Shoah/Churban Europa by both Charedi and RZ thinkers strike me as simplistic, reductionistic and daring to know an answer for a theodicy based issue, for which we should neither be confident in assuming or posing "answers." We would all be better off by seeking to rebuild Torah life both in the US and EY as opposed to engaging in this type of rhetoric.

7:37 AM  
Blogger Bari said...

Shabtai Teveth's book "Ben Gurion and the Holocaust" was written as a direct response to Tom Segev.

While I agree that it accomplishes nothing in a very concrete sense, I think it is important to try to understand that there is some veracity to the claims of the Charedim in this regard, so that it they at least given some modicum of respect. If a particular Hashkafa of one side gets zero respect from the other, there is no hope for 'Achdus', only simmering bitterness.

If you respectfully choose to disagree, that's a whole different ballgame.

9:47 AM  
Blogger Bari said...

That should read: "So that they are given at least some modicum of respect".

9:48 AM  
Anonymous Steve Brizel said...

Shavtai Teveth is a BG apologist. That's well known to anyone. Segev's book is devastating. You claim that the CHaredi POV should be given a modicum of respect. R Teichtal ZTL in Aim Habanim Smechah argues in a fairly convincig manner that the Charedim, via their leaders,erred in not working with the Zionists and from within the Zionist movement. As long as the Charedim insist in viewing the events that led to Churban Europa thru a revisionist lense in which no cheshbon hanefesh is espended for their own role during this period, one cannot seriously expect their opinions and views on this issue to be "given at least some modicum of respect."

8:26 PM  
Blogger Bari said...

I don't know how one can begin to make a comparison between a distinct, cognitive policy of sacrificing the observant Jews of Europe on the altar of Zionism, and lack of alacrity in calling for the Jews to leave Europe ehen there was still time, which is essentially a claim that the Gedolim should have anticipated that Rommel would turn away at El-Alamein, and that this occurence would have taken place even had there been a tremendous massive congregation of millions of Jews in Palestine, as if just being there is some sort of insurance policy against G-d's wrath.

It smacks of the "Had there been a Medinah there would have been no Holocaust" gobbledegook. I don't know that and neither do you.

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Steve Brizel said...

I think that you are missing my point. The USA was wide open until the 1920s. Yet, the Gdolim , except for RCS, had a persistently negative view of the possibility of Torah in the USA and viewed the USA as a "treife medinah."

EY was also fairly open under the British Mandate until the mid 1930s. At that point, the doors closed. Once again, the Charedi claim that the Zionists discriminated against them cuts both ways. If the Charedi leadership had worked from inside the Zionist movement without sacrificing its ideals as it does today by voting in the Knesset, lobbying and seeking a voice in Israeli policy or in ChuL by seeking Federation funds for Charedi mosdos, the quota for the Charedim would have been a lot larger than the meager 6% than they received in no small part to their boycotting of Zionist institutions on ideological grounds. Obviously, today's Charedi leadership understands the value and importance of working from within the Jewish body politic on some issues-even with those of very different hashkafos than the Charedi world.

WADR, R Teichtal maintains that the Charedi leadership bears much blame for the alleged "sacrificing of the observant Jews on the altar of Zionism." Would it be fair in stating that you do not believe in the view stated by R Herzog ZTL and many Gdolim and Rishonim that only two Churbanos were sanctioned by HaShem?

In addition, FYI, Rommmel did not "turn away at El Alamein." Rather he was soundly defeated by the British forces under Montgomery and the Nazis left North Africa after this defeat and the American invasion of N Africa. Rommel himelf was called back for the defense of Europe by Hitler. Like it or not, this was the history of the events in that theatre-as opposed to Rommel's turning away.

2:22 PM  
Blogger Bari said...

What happened to the great majority of those who came in the '20s and prior - they assimilated. They were forced to work on Shabbos. A massive transport of all the Yeshivos and the Gedolim and their few thousand Talmidim - I'm not so sure that was feasible, and the truth is that in that particular group - many survived due to R' Chaim OZer Grodzensky finding out in time about the clause in Ribbentrop-Molotov that Vilna would be independent under Lithuanian rule for a time, which allowed him to concentrate the Yeshivos there for a time and spirit many of them out of Europe - such as the Mir and Kletzk and others.

Prior to the war - do you think that the Charedi leadership had a shot at convincing the Zionist leaders to save more CHaredim and bringing them to Palestine - which was anathema to Weizmann and his ilk? Maybe - fill me in on your thoughts in this arena.

During the war - RAK worked with whomever he could to save whomever he could.

Re third Churban - you're correct on where I stand on that - as I have pointed out in my Reishit Tzemichat series.

Re Rommel - thanks for the clarification, but it isn't germane to the central point that the Gedolim in Europe really had no way,other than sheer clairvoyance, to know that Rommel would lose on that front and that the bombing of Tel Aviv and her environs would not be far more catastrophic in terms of lives lost.

2:55 PM  
Anonymous Steve Brizel said...

If you are referring to the immigrants to the USA prior to the 1920s, they arrived devoid of any communal Orthodox structure or support from the Oorhodox communities in E Europe. They also were for the large part not renowned for their observance prior to their arriving.Many were Bundists, Socialists,etc. Those two factors alone, as opposed to the mythical dumping of Tefilin into NY harbor, etc, led to much assimilation.

Many Gdolim, who were hardly Zionists, seriously entertained thoughts of moving to EY. A small list would consist of the CC, RCS and R Chaim Ozer zicronam, Livracha. Obviously, the CI voted with his feet and moved to EY, despite the fact that he was not a Zionist.

I do think that by working from within, that the Charedim stood a far better chance of getting out before WW2 and the Nazi onslaught than in attempting to negotiate with the Nazis by themselves.We do know solely from the benefit of hindsight that whenever Charedi leaders and mosdos work within an existing communal leadership, they wind up benefiting their communities in a far stronger way than by yelling "apikores!" from the sidelines-which was the classic Charedi tactic from the onset of Zionism until 1939. Clearly, the role of Charedim in the EY political scene as well as in cities such as Baltimore where R Neuberger ZTL sat on Fedration is proof that Charedim can make substantial achievements for their mosdos by working from within without compromising their values and principles. Why else would post war Gdolim such as RAK and others urge participation in the Israeli national elections?

Look at it this way. Both the extremely assimilated and the Charedim ignored and/or belittled Hitler's rhetoric, growing political influence and all of the anti Semitic legislation within Germany such as the Nuremburg Laws which set the table for the Holocaust on the grounds that their host nations were either too progressive and such legislation would never happen or that Hitler was just another despot whose influence would pass in time. Like it or not, despite their negligible political clout with the Western Powers pre WW2, the Zionists believed seriously that the ground was on fire underneath the feet of European Jewry.

RAK was well known for saying that he would kiss the ring of the pope if it would lead to the release of a single Jew.Unfortunately,neither American Jewry nor the weak secular Zionist leadership of the pre war era lifted a finger. American Jews were too entranced with FDR and rightfully scared of a strong domestic anti Semitism which abated only after Pearl Harbor. The secular Zionists may have consciously or subsconsciously deemed all of European Jewry, religious, secular and all others, expendable in their desire to build a state, but they were right in deeming Europe unsafe for Jews based upon their evaluation of the rise of anti Semitism ( which preceded the rise of Zionism in Western Europe, Fascism , Nazism and Communism. It is uncomfortable to admit it but Jabotinsky's view that the Galus had to be liquidated before the Galus liquidated the Jews ultimately was correct.

4:14 PM  

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