Lest America be fooled by post-Independence rhetoric, the Herut party Begin led was ‘closely akin to the Nazi and Fascist parties,’ they wrote.
On December 4 , 1948, the New York Times published a letter by a group of Jewish dignitaries, including Albert Einstein and political theorist Hannah Arendt, protesting a visit to the United States by Menachem Begin and denouncing his Herut (Freedom) party on the grounds that it was, as they wrote, “a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties.”
Begin’s visit, they argued, was “obviously calculated to give the impression of American support for his party” ahead of general elections in the newly-formed State of Israel, which had come into being as the British Mandate formally ended at midnight, May 14, 1948.
Herut had been formed out of the Irgun Zvai Leumi, one of the Jewish resistance organizations fighting the British prior to independence. But Herut, the letter to the Times claimed, was “a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.”
“It is inconceivable that those who oppose fascism throughout the world, if correctly informed as to Mr. Begin’s political record and perspectives, could add their names and support to the movement he represents,” the letter read. Never mind the party’s rhetoric following Israel’s independence: their past actions spoke volumes, they wrote.
The signatories on the letter were Isidore Abramowitz, Hannah Arendt, Abraham Brick, Rabbi Jessurun Cardozo, Albert Einstein, Herman Eisen, M.D., Hayim Fineman, M. Gallen, M.D., H.H. Harris, Zelig S. Harris, Sidney Hook, Fred Karush, Bruria Kaufman, Irma L. Lindheim, Nachman Maisel, Symour Melman, Myer D. Mendelson, M.D., Harry M. Orlinsky, Samuel Pitlick, Fritz Rohrlich, Louis P. Rocker, Ruth Sager, Itzhak Sankowsky, I.J. Schoenberg, Samuel Shuman, M. Znger, Irma Wolpe and Stefan Wolpe.
Einstein had not supported Israel’s establishment, arguing 10 years earlier in an address at New York’s Commodore Hotel that the formation of a state with borders and an army ran counter to “the essential nature of Judaism.” In 1946 he would tell the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on the Palestinian issue, “I cannot understand why it is needed. It is connected with narrow-minded and economic obstacles. I believe it is bad.”
A German by birth and a socialist, Einstein had been a professor at the Berlin Academy of Sciences and was on a visit to the U.S. in 1933 when Nazi Germany arose. He stayed in America and received citizenship in 1940. For all his opposition to Israel’s establishment as a state, he was Zionist, and was among the founders of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1925, when Palestine was under British Mandate rule.
Jewish defense against escalating Palestinian Arab violence in Palestine was, in the last years of the Mandate, handled by the Haganah. Its perceived restraint led to the formation of the paramilitary Irgun and Lehi organizations, which, the letter accused, employed “gangster methods” and “inaugurated a reign of terror in the Palestine Jewish community.”
The massacre at the Arab village of Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948 was particularly described. “This village, off the main roads and surrounded by Jewish lands, had taken no part in the war, and had even fought off Arab bands who wanted to use the village as their base,” they wrote in the letter. Yet 240 uninvolved people were killed, and though the Jewish community condemned the slaughter, “the terrorists, far from being ashamed of their act, were proud of this massacre, publicized it widely The Deir Yassin incident exemplifies the character and actions of the Freedom Party.”
They went on to describe Herut’s fascist tenets, including “an admixture of ultranationalism, religious mysticism and racial superiority.” It was no ordinary political party, he wrote, but bore the “unmistakable stamp of a Fascist party for whom terrorism (against Jews, Arabs, and British alike), and misrepresentation are means, and a ‘Leader State’ is the goal.”
America should turn its back on Begin and not support “this latest manifestation of fascism,” the letter ended.
Ironically, in 1952, when its first president, Chaim Weizmann, died, Israel was to offer Einstein – though not an Israeli citizen – the presidency. He declined.
Ultimately the Herut party was turn into the Likud (“consolidation”), an amalgamation of several right-wing parties led by Begin, prior to the 1973 Knesset election. The Likud lost that poll but went on to become the biggest winner of the 1977 election, making Begin prime minister after three decades of dominance by the left-leaning Labor Party.
Among his many accomplishments, Begin would sign the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty in 1979 – but, despairing as Israel sank into the mire of the 1982 first Lebanon war and depressed by the death of his wife Aliza, he would ultimately resign in October 1983. He died in 1992.
Einstein Letter Warning Of Zionist Fascism In Israel Letter That Albert Einstein Sent to the New York Times 1948, Protesting the Visit of Menachem Begin
TO THE EDITORS OF NEW YORK TIMES
Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our times is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the “Freedom Party” (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.
The current visit of Menachem Begin, leader of this party, to the United States is obviously calculated to give the impression of American support for his party in the coming Israeli elections, and to cement political ties with conservative Zionist elements in the United States. Several Americans of national repute have lent their names to welcome his visit. It is inconceivable that those who oppose fascism throughout the world, if correctly informed as to Mr. Begin’s political record and perspectives, could add their names and support to the movement he represents.
Before irreparable damage is done by way of financial contributions, public manifestations in Begin’s behalf, and the creation in Palestine of the impression that a large segment of America supports Fascist elements in Israel, the American public must be informed as to the record and objectives of Mr. Begin and his movement.
The public avowals of Begin’s party are no guide whatever to its actual character. Today they speak of freedom, democracy and anti-imperialism, whereas until recently they openly preached the doctrine of the Fascist state. It is in its actions that the terrorist party betrays its real character; from its past actions we can judge what it may be expected to do in the future.
Attack on Arab Village
A shocking example was their behavior in the Arab village of Deir Yassin. This village, off the main roads and surrounded by Jewish lands, had taken no part in the war, and had even fought off Arab bands who wanted to use the village as their base. On April 9 (THE NEW YORK TIMES), terrorist bands attacked this peaceful village, which was not a military objective in the fighting, killed most of its inhabitants (240 men, women, and children) and kept a few of them alive to parade as captives through the streets of Jerusalem. Most of the Jewish community was horrified at the deed, and the Jewish Agency sent a telegram of apology to King Abdullah of Trans-Jordan. But the terrorists, far from being ashamed of their act, were proud of this massacre, publicized it widely, and invited all the foreign correspondents present in the country to view the heaped corpses and the general havoc at Deir Yassin.
The Deir Yassin incident exemplifies the character and actions of the Freedom Party.
Within the Jewish community they have preached an admixture of ultranationalism, religious mysticism, and racial superiority. Like other Fascist parties they have been used to break strikes, and have themselves pressed for the destruction of free trade unions. In their stead they have proposed corporate unions on the Italian Fascist model.
During the last years of sporadic anti-British violence, the IZL and Stern groups inaugurated a reign of terror in the Palestine Jewish community. Teachers were beaten up for speaking against them, adults were shot for not letting their children join them. By gangster methods, beatings, window-smashing, and wide-spread robberies, the terrorists intimidated the population and exacted a heavy tribute.
The people of the Freedom Party have had no part in the constructive achievements in Palestine. They have reclaimed no land, built no settlements, and only detracted from the Jewish defense activity. Their much-publicized immigration endeavors were minute, and devoted mainly to bringing in Fascist compatriots.
The discrepancies between the bold claims now being made by Begin and his party, and their record of past performance in Palestine bear the imprint of no ordinary political party. This is the unmistakable stamp of a Fascist party for whom terrorism (against Jews, Arabs, and British alike), and misrepresentation are means, and a “Leader State” is the goal.
In the light of the foregoing considerations, it is imperative that the truth about Mr. Begin and his movement be made known in this country. It is all the more tragic that the top leadership of American Zionism has refused to campaign against Begin’s efforts, or even to expose to its own constituents the dangers to Israel from support to Begin.
The undersigned therefore take this means of publicly presenting a few salient facts concerning Begin and his party; and of urging all concerned not to support this latest manifestation of fascism.
RABBI JESSURUN CARDOZO,
HERMAN EISEN, M.D.,
HAYIM FINEMAN, M. GALLEN, M.D.,
ZELIG S. HARRIS,
IRMA L. LINDHEIM,
MYER D. MENDELSON, M.D.,
HARRY M. OSLINSKY,
LOUIS P. ROCKER,
New York, Dec. 2, 1948