When Israel Was the Darling of the Left

frdkrchwyAmerican intelligence bought the myth from 1947 to 1951 that the new Israeli state might be pro-Soviet because of the large presence of the Socialist-Zionist political parties and the proven success in combat of the Hagana and Palmach, units with a large participation of leftwing kibbutz members. Taking (as always) their lead from Moscow, the (hitherto anti-Zionist) Palestinian communist organizations merged their separate Arab and Jewish divisions in October, 1948, giving unconditional support to the Israeli war effort and urging the Israel Defense Forces to “Drive on toward the Suez Canal and hand British Imperialism a stinging defeat!” This alarmed the State Department that had been warned by British intelligence of possible Soviet infiltration or influence among the Israeli forces.

Overwhelming Support for Zionism and Partition from the American Left

The most well established, highly respected and veteran organ of the Left in the United States (celebrating its 150th anniversary this year), The Nation, enthusiastically editorialized in favor of partition and supported the creation of a Jewish State more so than any other American journal of opinion or media outlet. Freda Kirchwey, The Nation’s publisher and editor-in-chief wrote and spoke that the struggle for a Jewish Palestine was nothing less than the sequel and parallel of the Spanish Civil War, the other struggle to which she had dedicated much of her career. Spanish Republican exiles remembered with much emotion and gratitude the outstanding contribution Jewish volunteers had made to the International Brigades in Spain. Estimates of their participation range as high as 20%.

In this, she was undoubtedly correct, for her words were echoed by Dolores Ibarruri, “La Passionaria” the Basque Communist leader in the Spanish Cortes before and during the Civil War in Spain, followed by a long period of exile in Moscow. She issued a proclamation in 1948 from Moscow saluting the new State of Israel and compared the invading Arab armies to the Fascist uprising that had destroyed the Spanish Republic. Just a few months later, the hero of the American Left, the great Afro-American folk singer, Paul Robeson sang in a gala concert in Moscow, electrifying the crowd with his rendition of the Yiddish Partisan Fighters Song.

Kirchwey’s father had been dean of Columbia University Law School, President of the American Peace Society (a sponsor of the journal) and a leading pacifist spokesman. In 1918, Freda joined the staff of The Nation, eventually becoming its editor in 1933 and its publisher from 1937 to 1943. After her death, the New York Times editorialized that Kirchwey enjoyed a “unique combination of personal charm and militant principle” and for being “a cheerful crusader.”

Her most important crusade was waged on behalf of the Jewish State. She attacked the State Department and the Aramco Oil Company for their unholy alliance with the Saudi regime and appealed to President Truman to escape their clutches.

Kirchwey mobilized a board of influential progressives, which included such outstanding personalities as Philip Murray, president of the CIO; outstanding Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebhur; James G. Patton, president of the Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union; left-wing radio commentators Frank Kingdon and Raymond Graham Swing; playwrights Lillian Hellman and Eugene O’Neill; and writer Thomas Mann.

Kirchwey and her board decided that the magazine should concentrate its efforts on the issue of Palestine. They believed that the plight of Holocaust survivors languishing in Europe’s displaced-persons camps “presented a problem which challenged the conscience of mankind and the ability of civilization to make some restitution.” The overwhelming majority of Jewish refugees wished to go to Palestine to rebuild their shattered lives.

Kirchwey’s pro-Zionist sentiments were cemented during a trip to Palestine as The Nation’s correspondent in the spring and summer of 1946. Her impressions of the Jews, the Arabs, and the British were typical of almost all on the Left and held by many of the members of the various international commissions dispatched to Palestine. She was impressed with the achievements of the Jews in Palestine and their rehabilitation of the Holocaust’s survivors and contrasted their accomplishments with the poverty and what she called the backwardness of the Arabs. She also harshly criticized the role played by the 100,000 British troops stationed in Palestine.

In a series of articles she wrote about her trip, Kirchwey stated how “overpowering” the British military presence had become and how biased against the Jews, concluding that the British were inviting an Arab revolt and encouraging the Arabs to conclude that through blackmail, the “Western powers can be frightened into sacrificing the Jews just as they have already abandoned the Christians in Lebanon.”

In an editorial comment Some Proposed Solutions”, She  reviewed possible alternatives for Palestine and flatly rejected the creation of a bi-national state coming from liberal Jewish intellectuals such as Judah Magnes, Martin Buber, I. F. Stone, and Hannah Arendt. She argued that it would not “satisfy the needs of the Jews to migrate to Palestine—particularly in view of the consistent opposition of the Arabs.” If such a state were created, she predicted, “conflict would inevitably develop between two peoples whose cultural and industrial development is so different”.

No amount of rationalizations conjured up by spokesmen for the Left’s current position regarding the 1948 war for Israeli independence can obscure the fact that the Jews enjoyed the collective support of those forces in the West who identified with the Left.

Black-Jewish Relations in Support of Israel

For at least four decades Black-Jewish relations have soured and whatever platitudes may be uttered by recognized leaders of both groups, the rank and file often hold aggressive and condescending views of each other. Few remember or care to celebrate the heyday of the close, cordial and fraternal relations that differed from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s because it was a two way street relationship. In fact, African-Americans, took the lead among gentile supporters of rescuing Jews from the Holocaust and creating a Jewish state.

This forgotten alliance was linked to political action campaigns undertaken in the 1940s by what many liberal Jews today regard as “, The Far Right” of the Zionist movement. It was identified with so called underground “dissident movements” in Palestine – The Irgun and the Stern Gang (known by the acronym of LEHI) and managed in the United States by Peter Bergson, a Zionist emissary from Jerusalem. The group challenged the official position of most of the establishment Jewish organizations in the United States who were reluctant to voice any criticism against President Roosevelt and won the support of a wide array of members of Congress, Hollywood celebrities and intellectuals, including many prominent African-Americans.

Initially known as the Committee for a Jewish Army, the Bergson group sought to create a Jewish armed force that would fight alongside the Allies against the Nazis.  While many Jewish leaders balked at the idea of any Jewish separatist front that might make them appear as having “special interests”, some of the most dynamic and “radical” Black personalities supported the idea from 1940 to 1943. These included labor union leader A. Philip Randolph, president of the International Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and W. E. B. DuBois, the leading African-American intellectual of his era.

Due to public relations purposes, the British eventually agreed to establish a 5,000-man force, known as the Jewish Brigade. It fought with distinction on the European battlefield in 1945, and many of its veterans acquired the military skills that proved decisive in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.

Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston,  two of the most well recognized and honored Black writers and intellectuals were sponsors of the Bergson group’s July 1943 Emergency Conference to Save the Jewish People of Europe. The conference, held in New York City, challenged the Roosevelt administration’s claim that rescuing Jews from Hitler was physically impossible or would be detrimental to the overall allied war effort and that only by defeating the Nazis on the ground, could a Jewish remnant of survivors be rescued with full victory.

More than 1,500 delegates at the Conference heard panels of experts on military matters, relief proposals, escape routes and transportation logistics discussing practical ways to save Jews from genocide. One of these speakers was Walter White, executive director of the NAACP.  The noted singer, actor and political activist Paul Robeson was one of the stars of a Madison Square Garden “Show of Shows” (a name copied later by Jewish American comedian Sid Caesar for his successful comedy show) organized by Bergson in 1944 to raise money for his campaign to rescue Jewish refugees.

Full-page newspaper ads, a Congressional resolution urging the creation of a US government agency to rescue refugees, and a march by over 400 rabbis to the White House just before Yom Kippur embarrassed the Democratic administration and compelled FDR to establish the War Refugee Board, a proposal originally suggested by his wife Eleanor which helped save an estimated 220,000 lives during the last fifteen months of the war.

After the war, Bergson established the Hebrew Committee of National Liberation and the American League for a Free Palestine, which played a crucial role in mobilizing public support and in Congress for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. During the same closing years of the war, the NAACP worked closely with the Bergson group to help bring about the desegregation of theaters in Baltimore, which restricted African-Americans to less desirable seats. In 1946, Ben Hecht, one of the most prominent leftwing screenwriters in Hollywood, and Bergson ally, authored a Broadway play called “A Flag is Born”, in support of partition and Jewish statehood.

Among the most prominent Black supporters of Bergson’s Jewish statehood campaign were noted actor Canada Lee, and Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., of Harlem — the first African-American to represent New York in the US House of Representatives. Together along with Paul O’Dwyer , an Irish-born American politician and lawyer and the younger brother of Mayor William O’Dwyer, they rallied an audience with their appeals for Jewish-Black-Irish solidarity against the British and collected $75,000 from the crowd that night.”

These facts are either never mentioned or frantically denied by those who wish to rewrite history.  The legend that the U.S. was responsible for enabling Israel to survive in 1948 and that the Arabs were the victims is almost universally accepted in almost all political debate today  not only by the Left but by many American Jews guilty of wishful thinking.


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