For nearly three weeks I’ve been suggesting with increasing forcefulness that the official figure of 1,400 Israeli deaths from the Hamas attack may have been considerably exaggerated. Here’s what I’d said last Monday:
The total number of Israeli deaths remains uncertain. The government has claimed around 1,400 fatalities, a figure universally reported across the entire global media, but nearly a month after the fighting ending, fewer than 1,100 names have been published, raising serious doubts about the reality of the larger total. Indeed, Blumenthal noted that when Israel’s UN Ambassador distributed horrifying images of the corpses of Israeli civilians killed by Hamas, many of them turned out to be the bodies of Hamas fighters killed by the Israelis. So it seems quite possible that several hundred dead Hamas militants were originally included in that 1,400 total, with the Israeli government being too embarrassed to admit its original mistake.
As far as I know, I was almost alone among Internet writers offering these bold speculations and I naturally received some sharp criticism for my “conspiratorial” thinking. But on Saturday morning, the New York Times carried the following short item:
Some have claimed that even this newly reduced total of 1,200 seems to include many Israeli soldiers who were subsequently killed in the weeks of Gaza fighting, so it might still be considerably inflated.
Just as I’d argued, the apparent reason for the Israeli mistake was that such a large fraction of the bodies recovered had been charred beyond all recognition, making it very difficult to distinguish between Israelis and Hamas attackers. But since the Hamas fighters had only been carrying rifles and other small arms, all those victims must have been killed by explosive tank shells and Hellfire missiles. Indeed, newly released video footage revealed that hundreds of Israeli cars had been incinerated by such munitions, suggesting that many or most of the Israelis killed fleeing the dance festival had probably died at the hands of trigger-happy Apache pilots, who reported that they had blasted anything that moved.
When we combine these facts with the interviews of former Israeli hostages describing their very good treatment by their Hamas captors, it seems likely that a majority even a large majority of all the dead Israeli civilians had been killed by their own country’s military forces. Indeed, based upon this evidence, former UN Chief Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter puts the figure as high as 80%.
Meanwhile, the relentless Israeli bombardment of defenseless, densely-populated Gaza has continued, with official deaths reported by the Gaza Health Ministry now totaling well over 10,000. Moreover, as observers have noted, these figures are limited to the recovered bodies of identified victims, and given the enormous amount of destruction, many, many thousands more may still be buried under the rubble and only reported as “missing.” So after barely one month, the total civilian death-toll might now be rapidly approaching 20,000, more than twice the figure for both sides combined in twenty months of the Ukraine war, with the number of children killed being more than an order-of-magnitude higher. Therefore, since the morning of October 7th, perhaps 100 or more unarmed Palestinian civilians have died for every such Israeli, a ratio hardly emphasized by our mainstream media.
But regardless of whether the correct death toll is closer to 10,000 or 20,000, this unfolding calamity certainly represents the greatest televised slaughter of civilians in the history of the world and a massively blatant war crime, in which our own government has been fully complicit, with potentially very serious geopolitical consequences.
Although bombarding helpless civilians from the air with advanced American-supplied munitions is relatively easy, rooting out entrenched Hamas fighters on the ground is far more difficult and dangerous, and at this stage it’s not at all clear how well the Israeli ground offensive has been going or what sort of casualties the IDF has suffered, with both the Israelis and Hamas releasing widely divergent propaganda-claims.
Given such practical difficulties in further close combat, some prominent Israeli political figures have argued that much stronger means should be employed. Last week Cabinet Minister Amichay Elihayu suggested in an interview that Israeli nuclear weapons be used to annihilate Gaza and its two million inhabitants. Although he was quickly suspended for his loose talk, much of the criticism seemed more because he’d publicly admitted the existence of Israel’s illegal nuclear arsenal than that he’d proposed using it to eradicate the Palestinians.
Indeed, a few days earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had actually expressed somewhat parallel sentiments. Appealing to his zealously-religious political base, Netanyahu identified the Palestinians with the biblical tribe of Amalek, who according to divine mandate must be exterminated down the last newborn baby, and nuclear weapons might presumably constitute an acceptable means of implementing such a genocide.
Three years ago America and its college campuses had erupted in an enormous wave of popular demonstrations and protests over the unfortunate fate of George Floyd, a lifelong career criminal who had died of a drug-overdose while in police custody. So it is hardly surprising that some Americans might find themselves a little disconcerted by the globally-televised massacre of 10,000 or 20,000 helpless Gazan civilians, and begin expressing some hostility towards those who proudly endorse such Israeli actions, while the latter have angrily demanded that any such criticism be firmly suppressed.
But given America’s First Amendment protections, our situation is somewhat different, and such ideological restrictions must be implemented haphazardly. The New York Times ran two consecutive major articles, the first of them on the front-page, regarding the efforts of our elite campuses to combat what pro-Israel students consider anti-Semitic sentiments, with some colleges banning all pro-Palestinian student groups.
The administrations of our leading universities are famously liberal, but very similar denunciations of all anti-Israel sentiments were uniform among the conservative participants in the recent Republican Presidential debate
Yet despite these elite efforts, popular resistance is considerable. Over the weekend heavily-Jewish New York City saw large public marches denouncing Israel and those perceived as supporting Israeli policies, notably including the New York Times.
To some extent this situation recalls the events of a half-century ago, when Third World and pro-Soviet governments led a majority of the UN General Assembly to pass a resolution equating Zionism with racism, a perspective that has been resurrected by leftist and Communist groups, who now include such denunications in their public statements and protest signs.
Given these controversial claims, I think it’s worth investigating the origins and history of Zionism, the ideological movement founded in the late nineteenth century that ultimately created the State of Israel. After all, even many who are sometimes very critical of particular Israeli policies still declare themselves to be “proud Zionists.”
From its inception, Zionism had advocated the creation of a Jewish nation-state much along the lines of so many of those others established or advocated in nineteenth century Europe, afterward to be populated by the ingathering of most of the world’s diaspora Jews and with the ancient Jewish homeland of Palestine being the preferred location.
Most modern accounts of the Zionist movement suggest that it appeared in Europe as a reaction to the severe anti-Semitism suffered by so many European Jews during the nineteenth century, and that was certainly the story briefly told in my introductory textbooks.
The universally-acknowledged founding father of Zionism was Austro-Hungarian journalist Theodore Herzl, whose name so heavily graces the modern country that he inspired, explicitly so in his namesake city of Herzilia while the metropolis of Tel Aviv is named after the title of one of his Zionist novels.
Revolutionary France had been the first European country to grant full rights of citizenship to its small Jewish minority, and during the Napoleonic Wars that followed, French armies imposed that same reform upon many of the countries they occupied, freeing Jews from their traditional legal disabilities. So for a century, France and its highly-successful and well-integrated Jewish population had been regarded as the lodestar for European Jewry, most of whom lived under the far worse conditions of Eastern Europe, especially the huge population of downtrodden Jews suffering in the fiercely anti-Semitic Russian Empire of the Czars.
But then near the end of the nineteenth century, French society was suddenly roiled for many years by one of history’s most notorious anti-Semitic incidents, the unjust conviction and harsh imprisonment of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish military officer who was falsely charged with espionage because of his ethnicity and on the basis of forged evidence.
Herzl had been living and working in Paris at the time, and according to his later account, the horrendous wave of French anti-Jewish hatred that he witnessed during the Dreyfus trial convinced him that Jewish assimilation was impossible and that only a Jewish-run nation-state could protect the interests of his often-persecuted people. This led him to publish The Jewish State in 1896, thereby founding the Zionist movement.
This had been the sort of brief sketch presented in my introductory history textbooks and I’d always accepted it. The notorious Dreyfus case had rocked French political life for more than a decade and was generally viewed as one of the most shocking anti-Semitic incidents in world history so its central role in provoking the Zionist movement made perfect sense. But several years ago I read a widely-praised history of anti-Semitism by a leading scholar and discovered that the true facts were actually somewhat different.
In 1991 Cambridge University Press published The Jew Accused by Albert Lindemann, a noted scholar of European ideological movements, and his book focused on exactly that era and those sorts of incidents. Although the text is quite short, running less than 300 pages, Lindemann built his discussion upon a huge foundation of secondary literature, with his footnotes drawn from the 200 works included in his extensive bibliography. As far as I could tell, he seems a very scrupulous scholar, generally providing the multiple, often conflicting accounts of a given incident, and coming to his own conclusions with considerable hesitation.
This approach is certainly demonstrated in the first of his major cases, the notorious Dreyfus affair of late 19th century France, probably one of history’s most famous anti-Semitic incidents. Although he concludes that Captain Alfred Dreyfus was very likely innocent of the charge of espionage, he notes the seemingly strong evidence that initially led to his arrest and conviction and finds—contrary to myth-making by numerous later writers—absolutely no indications that his Jewish origins played any role whatsoever in his predicament.
However, he does note some of the underlying social context to this fierce political battle. Although only one Frenchman in a thousand was Jewish, just a few years earlier a group of Jews had been the leading culprits behind several huge financial scandals that had impoverished large numbers of small investors, and the swindlers afterward escaped any punishment by means of political influence and bribery. Given this history, much of the outrage of the anti-Dreyfusards probably arose from their fears that a Jewish military spy from a very wealthy family might be able to walk free using similar tactics, and the public claims that Dreyfus’s brother was offering enormous bribes to win his release certainly strengthened this concern.
The unmistakable conclusion of Lindemann’s analysis was that if the defendant in the Dreyfus case had not been Jewish, he would have suffered an identical arrest and conviction, but lacking any wealthy and politically mobilized Jewish community to rally around him, he would have received his punishment, just or unjust, and immediately been forgotten. But because he was Jewish, the massive support his community deployed on behalf of someone widely believed to be a traitor eventually provoked a huge backlash in the non-Jewish population. Indeed, as Wikipedia notes, Herzl himself apparently believed Dreyfus to be guilty, raising strong doubts about whether the case had actually served as the inspiration for Zionism.
Although Central European Jews such as Herzl launched and initially led the Zionist movement, they failed to attract much popular support from within their own Jewish communities, which were quite settled and prosperous. The Dreyfus Affair may have dominated French politics for a dozen years, but the Dreyfusards ultimately triumphed, with the imprisoned Jewish officer released and pardoned, while his persecutors were politically broken.
Meanwhile, the miserable and impoverished Jews of the Czarist Empire were largely confined to its Pale of Settlement, and they often lived in fear of periodic pogroms, riotous massacres widely believed organized or abetted by the hostile government. Given their huge discontent, they soon became the popular base of the Zionist movement, and after Herzl’s early death in 1904, they also eventually assumed its leadership as well, with Russian-born chemist Chaim Weizmann ranking as the outstanding figure. It was Weizmann who managed to arrange Britain’s 1917 Balfour Declaration, which promised the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, and he eventually served as the first president of an independent Israel once it was established in 1949.
But here as well, Lindemann’s careful scholarship effectively debunked many of the myths of Czarist anti-Semitism that had supposedly propelled the Zionist movement at the time and which I had always casually accepted.
Lindemann’s discussion of the often difficult relations between Russia’s restive Jewish minority and its huge Slavic majority is also quite interesting, and he provides numerous instances in which major incidents, supposedly demonstrating the enormously strong appeal of vicious anti-Semitism, were quite different than has been suggested by the legend. The famous Kishinev Pogrom of 1903 was obviously the result of severe ethnic tension in that city, but contrary to the regular accusations of later writers, there seems absolutely no evidence of high-level government involvement, and the widespread claims of 700 dead that so horrified the entire world were grossly exaggerated, with only 45 killed in the urban rioting. Chaim Weizmann, the future president of Israel, later promoted the story that he himself and some other brave Jewish souls had personally defended their people with revolvers in hand even as they saw the mutilated bodies of 80 Jewish victims. This account was totally fictional since Weizmann happened to have been hundreds of miles away when the riots occurred.
Although a tendency to lie and exaggerate was hardly unique to the political partisans of Russian Jewry, the existence of a powerful international network of Jewish journalists and Jewish-influenced media outlets ensured that such concocted propaganda stories might receive enormous worldwide distribution, while the truth followed far behind, if at all.
For related reasons, international outrage was often focused on the legal confinement of most of Russia’s Jews to the “Pale of Settlement,” suggesting some sort of tight imprisonment; but that area was the traditional home of the Jewish population and encompassed a landmass almost as large as France and Spain combined. The growing impoverishment of Eastern European Jews during that era was often assumed to be a consequence of hostile government policy, but the obvious explanation was extraordinary Jewish fecundity, which far outstripped that of their Slavic fellow countrymen, and quickly led them to outgrow the available spots in any of their traditional “middleman” occupations, a situation worsened by their total disinclination to engage in agriculture or other primary-producer activities. Jewish communities expressed horror at the risk of losing their sons to the Czarist military draft, but this was simply the flip-side of the full Russian citizenship they had been granted, and no different from what was faced by their non-Jewish neighbors.
Certainly the Jews of Russia suffered greatly from widespread riots and mob attacks in the generation prior to World War I, and these did sometimes have substantial government encouragement, especially in the aftermath of the very heavy Jewish role in the 1905 Revolution. But we should keep in mind that a Jewish plotter had been implicated in the killing of Czar Alexander II, and Jewish assassins had also struck down several top Russian ministers and numerous other government officials. If the last decade or two had seen American Muslims assassinate a sitting U.S. President, various leading Cabinet members, and a host of our other elected and appointed officials, surely the position of Muslims in this country would have become a very uncomfortable one.
As Lindemann candidly describes the tension between Russia’s very rapidly growing Jewish population and its governing authorities, he cannot avoid mentioning the notorious Jewish reputation for bribery, corruption, and general dishonesty, with numerous figures of all political backgrounds noting that the remarkable Jewish propensity to commit perjury in the courtroom led to severe problems in the effective administration of justice. The eminent American sociologist E.A. Ross, writing in 1913, characterized the regular behavior of Eastern European Jews in very similar terms.
Lindemann is hardly alone in suggesting that the supposedly rampant anti-Semitism of Czarist Russia has often been wildly exaggerated or mischaracterized. As I explained:
For decades most Americans would have ranked Nobel Laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn as among the world’s greatest literary figures, and his Gulag Archipelago alone sold over 10 million copies. But his last work was a massive two-volume account of the tragic 200 years of shared history between Russians and Jews, and despite its 2002 release in Russian and numerous other world languages, there has yet to be an authorized English translation, though various partial editions have circulated on the Internet in samizdat form.
At one point, a full English version was briefly available for sale at Amazon.com and I purchased it. Glancing through a few sections, the work appeared quite even-handed and innocuous to me, but it seemed to provide a far more detailed and uncensored account than anything else previously available, which obviously was the problem.
Solzhenitysn’s exhaustive account portrays the enormous efforts that the Czarist government undertook to integrate and accommodate its very rapidly growing Jewish population, including freely providing some of its best land for settlement, while simultaneously attempting to protect the vulnerable Slavic peasantry from traditional Jewish exploitation based upon usury, alcohol sales, and outright criminal activity.
The growing misery and impoverishment of Russian Jewry during this era drew them towards various different proposed solutions to their plight, including Zionism, Marxism, and emigration, but the main factor behind their economic decline was their tremendous population growth, by far the most rapid of any European group, which had multiplied their numbers perhaps ten-fold in merely a century; Weizmann himself was one of fifteen children. By contrast, anti-Semitism, whether real or imagined, was probably only a relatively minor factor in this regard. And although the Zionist ideology became widely popular among many Russian Jews, only a tiny sliver attempted to act upon it by settling in Palestine; instead, the vast majority of Jewish emigrants chose America, Britain, or other developed Western nations as their preferred destination.
Indeed, among the Jews of the Russian Empire, Zionism sometimes seemed to function more as an ideological vehicle for maintaining ethnic unity and cohesion rather than reflecting any actual intent to relocate to Palestine. And this perhaps highlights a central inspiration and source for Zionism quite possibly more important than the supposed anti-Semitic provocations so universally emphasized in our standard histories.
While my introductory textbooks always mentioned Herzl as the founder of Zionism, they almost invariably omitted the name of Max Nordau, his closest ally and collaborator in the creation of the movement, a fellow Austro-Hungarian living in Paris who also claimed to have been radicalized by the Dreyfus Affair. As a physician and author, Nordau had already become a prominent public intellectual, and his strong adherence to the new Zionist cause gave it considerable impetus compared to the relatively obscure Herzl. Furthermore, it was Nordau who organized the international Zionist Congresses that became the centerpiece of the movement, which he led after Herzl’s death.
Given Nordau’s central role in the creation of Zionism, his name would surely have always been paired with Herzl’s in all our historical accounts, but he suffers from one disqualifying factor. Nordau is actually best known as one of the founding fathers of nineteenth century European racialism, an ideological current that probably provides an important insight into the true roots of Zionism. I suspect that his crucial role in creating Zionism has been carefully air-brushed out of all popular accounts in order to avoid drawing undue attention to the very close ties between those two nineteenth century intellectual movements, which these days are viewed in starkly different terms by the liberal Jews who dominate our academic life and our media outlets.
Indeed, although few present-day Westerners might suspect it, European Jews such as Nordau had actually played an absolutely central role in the birth of modern racialism, of which Zionism may be regarded as merely an offshoot movement.
In 1911, the eminent German political economist Werner Sombart had published The Jews and Modern Capitalism in which he had famously argued that the roots of the European capitalist economy might best be traced to the influence of its tiny Jewish population, and a strong case might be made that the same was true of European racialism as well. In Esau’s Tears, a much longer and more comprehensive sequel to his earlier book on the history of anti-Semitism, Lindemann pointed to the otherwise unrecognized role of Jewish-born British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, one of the leading figures of the late nineteenth century, and a prominent novelist before he entered politics:
Lindemann also notes Disraeli’s focus on the extreme importance of race and racial origins, a central aspect of traditional Jewish religious doctrine. He reasonably suggests that this must surely have had a huge influence upon the rise of those political ideas, given that Disraeli’s public profile and stature were so much greater than the mere writers or activists whom our history books usually place at center stage. In fact, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, a leading racial theorist, actually cited Disraeli as a key source for his ideas. Jewish intellectuals such as Max Nordau and Cesare Lombroso are already widely recognized as leading figures in the rise of the racial science of that era, but Disraeli’s under-appreciated role may have actually been far greater. The deep Jewish roots of European racialist movements are hardly something that many present-day Jews would want widely known.
Zionism has obviously always been recognized as a nationalist movement and nationalism is first-cousin to racialism. But the undeniable fact that Zionism’s co-founder was one of Europe’s leading racialists may help render certain elements of its later trajectory much less surprising.
In the aftermath of the First World War, the Zionist movement was dramatically impacted by several important political developments.
Britain had seized Palestine from the Ottoman Empire and based upon the Balfour Declaration opened the country to substantial Jewish immigration, thereby providing a fulfillment of Zionist aspirations but naturally also arousing growing resentment and fears among the local Palestinian Arab inhabitants.
Almost simultaneously with Balfour’s public statement, the Bolshevik Revolution had swept away centuries of Czarist rule in Russia, and after years of bitter civil war, the overwhelmingly Jewish Bolshevik leadership consolidated its power over the world’s largest country and its huge population. Meanwhile, Jewish-led Bolshevik uprisings had narrowly failed to gain control of Hungary and portions of Germany, so much of the rest of the world became very fearful of this new revolutionry threat, whose base of support in most countries was found in their small Jewish minorities.
These twin developments became the subject of a long 1920 article that Cabinet Minister Winston Churchill published in one of Britain’s leading newspapers. He condemned Bolshevism as a worldwide menace, emphasizing its overwhelmingly Jewish leadership. But he also argued that Zionism and Bolshevism were locked in a fierce struggle for influence among global Jewry, and the security of the world depended upon most Jews taking the path of the former movement.
Meanwhile, Benito Mussolini had been a leading Italian Socialist, but during the war he had rejected that doctrine and sharing the concerns of Churchill over the threat of Bolshevism, he created his own Fascist movement, which he brought to power in 1922. Many of his most important early supporters were drawn from Italy’s tiny and heavily-assimilated Jewish population.
So with Soviet Bolshevism and Italian Fascism both regarded as successful, rising ideological movements, they naturally attracted their share of admirers and imitators across the world, not least within Zionism. The larger Zionist factions followed the path of Marxism and were dominated by Russian-born David Ben-Gurion, who idolized Lenin and eventually became Israel’s first prime minister. But smaller, right-wing Zionist factions instead drew their inspiration from the Fascism of Mussolini.
Among other things, Brenner provides considerable evidence that the larger and somewhat more mainstream right-wing Zionist faction later led by future Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin was almost invariably regarded as a Fascist movement during the 1930s, even apart from its warm admiration for Mussolini’s Italian regime. This was hardly such a dark secret in that period given that its main Palestine newspaper carried a regular column by a top ideological leader entitled “Diary of a Fascist.” During one of the major international Zionist conferences, factional leader Vladimir Jabotinsky entered the hall with his brown-shirted followers in full military formation, leading the chair to ban the wearing of uniforms in order to avoid a riot, and his faction was soon defeated politically and eventually expelled from the Zionist umbrella organization. This major setback was largely due to the widespread hostility the group had aroused after two of its members were arrested by British police for the recent assassination of Chaim Arlosoroff, one of the highest-ranking Zionist officials based in Palestine.
Indeed, forty years ago the New York Times and other leading world newspapers revealed that during World War II, the right-wing Zionist faction led by Yitzhak Shamir, the sitting Prime Minister of Israel, had actively sought to enlist in the Axis powers:
Apparently, during the late 1930s, Shamir and his small Zionist faction had become great admirers of the Italian Fascists and German Nazis, and after World War II broke out, they had made repeated attempts to contact Mussolini and the German leadership in 1940 and 1941, hoping to enlist in the Axis Powers as their Palestine affiliate, and undertake a campaign of attacks and espionage against the local British forces, then share in the political booty after Hitler’s inevitable triumph.
Among other things, there were long excerpts from the official letters sent to Mussolini ferociously denouncing the “decadent” democratic systems of Britain and France that he was opposing, and assuring Il Duce that such ridiculous political notions would have no future place in the totalitarian Jewish client state they hoped to establish under his auspices in Palestine.
As it happens, both Germany and Italy were preoccupied with larger geopolitical issues at the time, and given the small size of Shamir’s Zionist faction, not much seems to have ever come of those efforts. But the idea of the sitting Prime Minister of the Jewish State having spent his early wartime years as an unrequited Nazi ally was certainly something that sticks in one’s mind, not quite conforming to the traditional narrative of that era which I had always accepted.
Most remarkably, the revelation of Shamir’s pro-Axis past seems to have had only a relatively minor impact upon his political standing within Israeli society. I would think that any American political figure found to have supported a military alliance with Nazi Germany during the Second World War would have had a very difficult time surviving the resulting political scandal, and the same would surely be true for politicians in Britain, France, or most other western nations. But although there was certainly some embarrassment in the Israeli press, especially after the shocking story reached the international headlines, apparently most Israelis took the whole matter in stride, and Shamir stayed in office for another year, then later served a second, much longer term as Prime Minister during 1986-1992. The Jews of Israel apparently regarded Nazi Germany quite differently than did most Americans, let alone most American Jews.
We would hardly be surprised that a stridently-racialist ideological movement inspired by Mussolini might have sought to join the Axis powers during World War II. But ironically enough, as Brenner’s remarkable research revealed, the mainstream Zionist movement, despite its leftist orientation and Marxist beliefs, had actually spent most of the 1930s aligned with Nazi Germany in a far more important partnership, one that played a crucial role in the creation of Israel.
The cover of the 2014 paperback edition of Brenner’s book displays the commemorative medal struck by Nazi Germany to mark its Zionist alliance, with a Star-of-David on the front face and a Swastika on the obverse. But oddly enough, this symbolic medallion actually had absolutely no connection with the unsuccessful attempts by Shamir’s small faction to arrange a Nazi military alliance during World War II.
Although the Germans paid little attention to the entreaties of that minor organization, the far larger and more influential mainstream Zionist movement of Chaim Weizmann and David Ben-Gurion was something else entirely. And during most of the 1930s, these other Zionists had formed an important economic partnership with Nazi Germany, based upon an obvious commonality of interests. After all, Hitler regarded Germany’s one percent Jewish population as a disruptive and potentially dangerous element which he wanted gone, and the Middle East seemed as good a destination for them as any other. Meanwhile, the Zionists had very similar objectives, and the creation of their new national homeland in Palestine obviously required both Jewish immigrants and Jewish financial investment.
After Hitler had been named Chancellor in 1933, outraged Jews worldwide had quickly launched an economic boycott, hoping to bring Germany to its knees, with London’s Daily Express famously running the banner headline “Judea Declares War on Germany.” Jewish political and economic influence, then just like now, was very considerable, and in the depths of the Great Depression, impoverished Germany needed to export or die, so a large scale boycott in major German markets posed a potentially serious threat. But this exact situation provided Zionist groups with an excellent opportunity to offer the Germans a means of breaking that trade embargo, and they demanded favorable terms for the export of high-quality German manufactured goods to Palestine, together with accompanying German Jews. Once word of this major Ha’avara or “Transfer Agreement” with the Nazis came out at a 1933 Zionist Convention, many Jews and Zionists were outraged, and it led to various splits and controversies. But the economic deal was too good to resist, and it went forward and quickly grew.
The importance of the Nazi-Zionist pact for Israel’s establishment is difficult to overstate. According to a 1974 analysis in Jewish Frontiercited by Brenner, between 1933 and 1939 over 60% of all the investment in Jewish Palestine came from Nazi Germany. The worldwide impoverishment of the Great Depression had drastically reduced ongoing Jewish financial support from all other sources, and Brenner reasonably suggests that without Hitler’s financial backing, the nascent Jewish colony, so tiny and fragile, might easily have shriveled up and died during that difficult period.
Such a conclusion leads to fascinating hypotheticals. When I first stumbled across references to the Ha’avara Agreement on websites here and there, one of the commenters mentioning the issue half-jokingly suggested that if Hitler had won the war, statues would surely have been built to him throughout Israel and he would today be recognized by Jews everywhere as the heroic Gentile leader who had played the central role in reestablishing a national homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine after almost 2000 years of bitter exile.
This sort of astonishing counter-factual possibility is not nearly as totally absurd as it might sound to our present-day ears. We must recognize that our historical understanding of reality is shaped by the media, and media organs are controlled by the winners of major wars and their allies, with inconvenient details often excluded to avoid confusing the public. It is undeniably true that in his 1924 book Mein Kampf, Hitler had written all sorts of hostile and nasty things about Jews, especially those who were recent immigrants from Eastern Europe, but when I read the book back in high school, I was a little surprised to discover that these anti-Jewish sentiments hardly seemed central to his text. Furthermore, just a couple of years earlier, a vastly more prominent public figure such as British Minister Winston Churchill had published sentiments nearly as hostile and nasty, focusing on the monstrous crimes being committed by Bolshevik Jews. In Albert Lindemann’s Esau’s Tears, I was surprised to discover that the author of the famous Balfour Declaration, the foundation of the Zionist project, was apparently also quite hostile to Jews, with an element of his motivation probably being his desire to exclude them from Britain.
Once Hitler consolidated power in Germany, he quickly outlawed all other political organizations for the German people, with only the Nazi Party and Nazi political symbols being legally permitted. But a special exception was made for German Jews, and Germany’s local Zionist Party was accorded complete legal status, with Zionist marches, Zionist uniforms, and Zionist flags all fully permitted. Under Hitler, there was strict censorship of all German publications, but the weekly Zionist newspaper was freely sold at all newsstands and street corners. The clear notion seemed to be that a German National Socialist Party was the proper political home for the country’s 99% German majority, while Zionist National Socialism would fill the same role for the tiny Jewish minority.
In 1934, Zionist leaders invited an important SS official to spend six months visiting the Jewish settlement in Palestine, and upon his return, his very favorable impressions of the growing Zionist enterprise were published as a massive 12-part series in Joseph Goebbel’s Der Angriff, the flagship media organ of the Nazi Party, bearing the descriptive title “A Nazi Goes to Palestine.” In his very angry 1920 critique of Jewish Bolshevik activity, Churchill had argued that Zionism was locked in a fierce battle with Bolshevism for the soul of European Jewry, and only its victory might ensure amicable future relations between Jew and Gentile. Based on available evidence, Hitler and many of the other Nazi leaders seemed to have reached a somewhat similar conclusion by the mid-1930s.
After the controversy surrounding Shamir’s Nazi ties erupted into the headlines, Brenner’s material became the grist for an important article by Edward Mortimer, the longtime Middle East expert at the august Times of London, and the 2014 edition of the book includes some choice extracts from Mortimer’s February 11, 1984 Times piece, emphasizing the extremely harsh sentiments expressed by Zionist leaders toward Diaspora Jewry, helping to explain why the Zionist partnership with Nazi Germany was less difficult than one might expect.
Who told a Berlin audience in March 1912 that “each country can absorb only a limited number of Jews, if she doesn’t want disorders in her stomach. Germany already has too many Jews”?
No, not Adolf Hitler but Chaim Weizmann, later president of the World Zionist Organization and later still the first president of the state of Israel.
And where might you find the following assertion, originally composed in 1917 but republished as late as 1936: “The Jew is a caricature of a normal, natural human being, both physically and spiritually. As an individual in society he revolts and throws off the harness of social obligation, knows no order nor discipline”?
Not in Der Sturmer but in the organ of the Zionist youth organization, Hashomer Hatzair.
As the above quoted statement reveals, Zionism itself encouraged and exploited self-hatred in the Diaspora. It started from the assumption that anti-Semitism was inevitable and even in a sense justified so long as Jews were outside the land of Israel.
It is true that only an extreme lunatic fringe of Zionism went so far as to offer to join the war on Germany’s side in 1941, in the hope of establishing “the historical Jewish state on a national and totalitarian basis, and bound by a treaty with the German Reich.” Unfortunately this was the group which the present Prime Minister of Israel chose to join.
As I summarized those Zionist sentiments:
The very uncomfortable truth is that the harsh characterizations of Diaspora Jewry found in the pages of Mein Kampf were not all that different from what was voiced by Zionism’s founding fathers and its subsequent leaders, so the cooperation of those two ideological movements was not really so totally surprising.
Also quite ironic was the role of Adolf Eichmann, whose name today probably ranks as one of the most famous half-dozen Nazis in history, due to his postwar 1960 kidnapping by Israeli agents, followed by his public show-trial and execution as a war-criminal. As it happens, Eichmann had been a central Nazi figure in the Zionist alliance, even studying Hebrew and apparently becoming something of a philo-Semite during the years of his close collaboration with top Zionist leaders.
But in the aftermath of the total Allied victory in World War II and the massive demonization of Nazi Germany, not least by their erstwhile Jewish allies, the crucial role of the 1930s Nazi-Zionist economic partnership became a desperately-suppressed secret for the newly established Israeli government, one that might have destroyed the fledgling country if it became widely known. Concerns that Eichmann might eventually reveal that long-hidden arrangement may have been the primary reason behind his elimination.
The deep racialist roots and historic Nazi ties of the Zionist movement and the Israeli state that it created are strikingly apparent to anyone who investigates the nature of modern Israeli society, though our overwhelmingly pro-Israel media hardly emphasizes these ideological embarrassments.
Ironically enough, Israel today is one of very few countries with a similar sort of strictly racially-based criteria for citizenship status and other privileges, with the Jewish-only immigration policy now often enforced by DNA testing, and marriages between Jews and non-Jews legally prohibited. A few years ago, the world media also carried the remarkable story of a Palestinian Arab sentenced to prison for rape because he had had consensual sexual relations with a Jewish woman by passing himself off as a fellow Jew.
Since Orthodox Judaism is strictly matrilineal and controls Israeli law, even Jews of other branches can experience unexpected difficulties due to conflicts between personal ethnic identity and official legal status. The vast majority of the wealthier and more influential Jewish families worldwide do not follow Orthodox religious traditions, and over the generations, they have often taken Gentile wives. However, even if the latter had converted to Judaism, their conversions are considered invalid by the Orthodox Rabbinate, and none of their resulting descendants are considered Jewish. So if some members of these families later develop a deep commitment to their Jewish heritage and immigrate to Israel, they are sometimes outraged to discover that they are officially classified as “goyim” under Orthodox law and legally prohibited from marrying Jews. These major political controversies periodically erupt and sometimes reach the international media.
Now it seems to me that any American official who proposed racial DNA tests to decide upon the admission or exclusion of prospective immigrants would have a very difficult time remaining in office, with the Jewish-activists of organizations like the ADL probably leading the attack. And the same would surely be true for any prosecutor or judge who sent non-whites to prison for the crime of “passing” as whites and thereby managing to seduce women from that latter group. A similar fate would befall advocates of such policies in Britain, France, or most other Western nations, with the local ADL-type organization certainly playing an important role. Yet in Israel, such existing laws merely occasion a little temporary embarrassment when they are covered in the international media, and then invariably remain in place after the commotion has died down and been forgotten. These sorts of issues are considered of little more importance than were the past wartime Nazi ties of the Israeli prime minister throughout most of the 1980s.
But perhaps the solution to this puzzling difference in public reaction lies in an old joke. A leftist wit once claimed that the reason America has never had a military coup is that it is the only country in the world that lacks an American embassy to organize such activities. And unlike the U.S., Britain, France, and many other predominately-white countries, Israel has no domestic Jewish-activist organization filling the powerful role of the ADL
Over the last few years, many outside observers have noted a seemingly very odd political situation in Ukraine. That unfortunate country possesses powerful militant groups, whose public symbols, stated ideology, and political ancestry all unmistakably mark them as Neo-Nazis. Yet those violent Neo-Nazi elements are all being bankrolled and controlled by a Jewish Oligarch who holds dual Israeli citizenship. Furthermore, that peculiar alliance had been mid-wifed and blessed by some of America’s leading Jewish Neocon figures, such as Victoria Nuland, who have successfully used their media influence to keep such explosive facts away from the American public.
At first glance, a close relationship between Jewish Israelis and European Neo-Nazis seems as grotesque and bizarre a misalliance as one could imagine, but after recently reading Brenner’s fascinating book, my perspective substantially shifted. Indeed, the main difference between then and now is that during the 1930s, Zionist factions represented a very insignificant junior partner to a powerful Third Reich, while these days it is the Nazis who occupy the role of eager suppliants to the formidable power of International Zionism, which now so heavily dominates the American political system and through it, much of the world.
Consider the contrasting treatment of anti-Semitism, racism, and the Jewish nationalism known as Zionism in our modern Western world, whose dominant political and media elites assign extremely different moral values to these disparate movements. Several years ago I explained one way of understanding the relationship between these different ideologies.
A cohesive, organized group generally possesses huge advantages over a teeming mass of atomized individuals, much like a disciplined Macedonian Phalanx could easily defeat a vastly larger body of disorganized infantry. Many years ago, on some website somewhere I came across a very insightful comment regarding the obvious connection between “anti-Semitism” and “racism,” which our mainstream media organs identify as two of the world’s greatest evils. Under this analysis, “anti-Semitism” represents the tendency to criticize or resist Jewish social cohesion, while “racism” represents the attempt of white Gentiles to maintain a similar social cohesion of their own. To the extent that the ideological emanations from our centralized media organs serve to strengthen and protect Jewish cohesion while attacking and dissolving any similar cohesion on the part of their Gentile counterparts, the former will obviously gain enormous advantages in resource-competition against the latter.
I’m a theoretical physicist by training, with undergraduate and graduate degrees from Harvard University, Cambridge University, and Stanford University. In the late 1980s, I entered the financial services software industry, and soon founded Wall Street Analytics, Inc., a small but successful company in that field. A few years later, I became strongly involved in politics and public policy writing, and I have subsequently oscillated between software and public policy activities. Below are links to several major media profiles from the late 1990s, chronicling my activities to that point. I also served as publisher of The American Conservative, a small opinion magazine, from 2006 to 2013. Most recently, in late 2013 I launched an initiative campaign to raise the minimum wage to $12.00 per hour in California and the rest of the country, based on ideas I had previously published on the subject, and this is discussed in the linked New York Times article, with more of the details available here. Although the California campaign was unsuccessful, it played a major role in promoting the issue both in the state and nationally, leading to the sweeping victories there and elsewhere in the years that followed. In 2016, I organized the Free Harvard/Fair Harvard slate of candidates for the Harvard Board of Overseers, headlined by Ralph Nader and running on a platform of abolishing undergraduate tuition, but we were unsuccessful.