Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

Israel's Flag Is Not Mine

Like King Abdullah al-Hussein of Jordan’s American address in 1947, this telling letter by Alfred M. Lilienthal published in 1949 reveals a far greater openness of debate and expresses serious doubt and misgivings about zionism in the US than has occurred since. It was recently posted by our good friend Mr Savant at Ressentiment, yet does not appear widely: a web search yielded only 57 hits for it, many of them duplicates. (If you google “Israel’s Flag Is Not Mine”, the initial count is a mere 546 hits, which is whittled down to an actual count of 57). Picked up by The Least, First, our friend Monte writes, “How very intriguing it is to read the early Jewish anti-Zionists! Lilienthal, an American, articulately decried the way his lifelong faith became a tool of Israeli nationalism, and used as a competitor intended to weaken his American identity.” Quite. You can find the original 1949 Digest scan here.

Dear Mother:

I brought you my hurts and troubles when both they and I were little: in that same spirit I bring them to you today.

Only last year, a new white flag with single blue six-pointed star was hoisted to a mast many thousands of miles away on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea. This flag of Israel is the symbol of a new nationalist state, with its own government, army, foreign policy, language, national anthem and oath of allegiance.

And this new flag has brought every one of us five million American citizens of the ancient faith of Judah to a parting in the road.

Judaism, I have felt, was a religious faith which knew no national boundaries, to which a loyal citizen of any country could adhere.

By contrast, Zionism was and is a nationalist movement organized to reconstitute Jews as a nation with a separate homeland. Now that such a state exists, what am I? Am I still only an American who believes in Judaism? Or am I—as extreme Zionists and anti-Semites alike argue—a backsliding member of an Oriental tribe whose loyalty belongs to that group?

Let us start, Mother, with how I feel about this new State of Israel. I wish it well. I hope that several hundred thousand suffering displaced persons will find in it a happy home. I hope it will prosper as a center of democracy in the Middle East. But when its flag was first raised on May 14, 1948, I had no impulse to dance in the street with hysterical joy, as did so many in New York and London. For I was born and remain an American. I have no ties with, no longings for, and feel no responsibilities to Israel. And I believe that the future happiness of the Jews in America depends on their complete integration as citizens of this—our true—country.

I am sure that if we Jews as a group are persuaded to divide that love which people normally give to their native land, it can lead only to disaster.

The Irish? They are a nation and Judaism is a religion. Irishmen here have left Ireland only in recent generations. The Jews left Palestine in Roman times, and have come here from every European country.

My one and only homeland is America. I am proud of my belief in the age-old Judaic concept of one God in Heaven and one Humanity here below. But my faith does not pull me into a feeling of narrowly tribal kinship with all others who worship God in this way. Whenever I read of Americans singing the Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem, or see youth groups raising Israel’s flag beside the Stars and Stripes. I am outraged. For Israel’s flag and anthem are symbols of a foreign state; ,they are not mine.

The most powerful weapon which Zionism is using on Americans of Jewish faith is its outward cloak of humanitarianism. The argument runs that Israel was set up primarily as a haven for the persecuted, the homeless, so why should we be critical?

Mother, the truth is that Israel was not created primarily for displaced persons. Instead, Article 3 of its proposed constitution proclaims it to be “the national home of the Jewish people.” Meaning, Mother, you and me! As early as 1917 Dr. Chaim Weizmann, Israel’s first president, was proclaiming: “We have never based the Zionist Movement on Jewish suffering in Russia or any other land. These sufferings have never been the mainspring of Zionism.”

Rabbi Abba H. Silver, a recent head of the American Zionists, declared: “We must stand foursquare on the proposition that Zionism is not an immigration or a refugee movement, but a movement to rebuild the Jewish State for the Jewish nation in the land of Israel.”

And what is the attitude of Israel toward those who adhere to the faith of Judaism but are citizens of other countries? Our “nationality” they insist is Jewish, no matter under what flags we were born; and, since we are not in Israel, we live “in the Diaspora,” which is to say in exile. And their plans for us?

“We must,” explained Prime Minister Ben-Gurion, in his first speech after the Israeli elections, “save the remnants of Israel in the Diaspora. We must also save their possessions. Without these two things, we shall not build this country.”

So the vast Zionist propaganda machine strives to cement national ties between Israel and all persons of Jewish faith. And sending money to Israel is only a small part of our supposed obligation. The deeper objectives are given by Dr. Margoshes, an executive of the American Section of the Jewish Agency, as being:

” – to Zionize world Jewry. . .to establish Zionist hegemony over the developing Jewish communities throughout the world.”

Daniel Frisch, newly elected president of the American Zionists, feels that “the American Jewish community will soon arrive at the inevitable conclusion that the all-day school plus a chain of summer camps is the only solution to the problem,” and that “we ought to be able to send to Israel American—bred young people who want to live as Jews minus the hyphen under the smiling skies of the reborn Israel. Our task has not ended with the birth of the Jewish State. It has but begun.”

Have these misguided zealots forgotten the indignation which was aroused in America In the ’30’s, when the Bundists tried to tell Americans of German ancestry that they owed loyalty to Germany, and set up in America youth camps dedicated to German culture?

Today we see Zionists boasting of “Jewish” political strength, Zionist picket lines around British consulates, Zionists demonstrating against Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin when he arrives here to sign the Atlantic Pact, New York stores plastered with posters screaming “Do Not Buy British. Made Goods.”

Are these people acting as Americans? Europe’s recovery through the Marshall Plan is the keystone of our bipartisan foreign policy, which the Communists are trying to sabotage. Any boycott of British goods, organized or unorganized, helps this destruction. Now I know these Zionists were not consciously trying to tear down American foreign policy, but their actions were the inevitable result of living under segregation is not solely the fault of the other guy. Part of the responsibility is on our shoulders. True, the Jew is sometimes segregated by Christians. But it is also true that the Jew sometimes sets himself apart from Christians.

We have moved out of the ghetto, but sometimes scars of the long imprisonment remain. This is why many Jews even today feel at home only with other Jews. Many carry their Jewishness on their sleeves and are extremely self-conscious and sensitive to their separateness.

ALL OF THIS I understand: most of it I forgive. After all, six million Jews were wiped out by Hitler and anti-Semitism does exist, even in America. Why should each of us not be at least a little sensitive? This I think most non-Jews understand. But when anyone criticizes, however mildly, either Zionism, the State of Israel or the hysterical behavior of some groups of Jews. we have no right to shout “anti-Semitism!”

In any religion one can find a small group of fanatics who hate those of other faiths. Such fanatics are not numerous or important. It is Semitism—the constant effort of some Jews to assert themselves as Jews—and not their religion of Judaism which feeds anti-Semitism.

‘No one knows better than you, Mother, that I, too. suffered humiliation from being a Jew. I have felt the arrows of discrimination. In my deep hurt I have cried out. But the discipline of two nationalisms. Were Hitler alive today, how he would laugh!

The plain fact is that we Jews are not a race and we should not let the Zionists persuade us that we are. Proof to the contrary lies in Palestine, plain for all to see. You had my letter, Mother, from my Army furlough there. I was second to none in my enthusiasm for. what my co-religionists had done—for a desert brought to bloom, for clean new cities rising out of age-old sand dunes. All of these wonders had come to pass while only a few fanatics talked of statehood. One evening I went to see a performance ,of an opera in Jerusalem. In that theater lobby you could distinguish almost at a glance the Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazic Jew from Poland, the Spanish-speaking Sephardic Jew from North Africa or Turkey, the German Jew, Jews from a score of countries all differing in dress, language, manners and mental attitudes. I had visual proof of the arguments of anthropologists. who laugh at the notion of a distinct Jewish race.

Anyone who tells me those foreign Jews are exclusively my people that I should be closer to them than to Bob McCormick, the kid on the block with whom I used to play ball: or to Nick Galbraith, who roomed next to me at Cornell; or Dave Du Vivier with whom I studied in law school—that man is talking dangerous nonsense. I have also learned, Mother, that when something. goes wrong in my relations with non-Jews. I avoid the habit of thinking that it happened just because I am a Jew. Such self-pity is comforting, but it is usually wrong and therefore dangerous.

There is today a deep split among Americans of the Jewish faith. The Zionists are the more vocal; they have more organized political power. But they do not speak for all of us, and I hope not for most. On the other side there is, for instance, the American Council for Judaism, which insists that the nationalism of Israel must be confined to the boundaries of that state. There are also countless other Jews without any affiliation who revere Judaism as a religion and scorn to degrade it into a cheap racial nationalism which competes with their Americanism.

But when we protest the right of the Zionists to speak as “American Jewry” on the question of Palestine, we are told that Jews should not be disunited, must not fight among themselves on Palestine or any other issue. And if we still speak out against what we feel is a dangerous trend, we find ourselves reviled and ostracized as traitors. Coercion, often economic, frequently silences the freethinker.

But why should Americans of Jewish faith be any more united on questions of American foreign policy than are Presbyterians, Baptists or Methodists?

Have we forgotten the words of Woodrow Wilson in 1915 when he warned all Americans: “You cannot become true Americans if you think of yourselves in groups. A man who thinks of himself as belonging to a particular national group in America has not yet become an American. And a man who goes among you to trade on your nationality is not worthy to live under the Stars and Stripes.”

Politicians of both parties who in the last election played to “the Jewish vote”‘ in connection with Israel will do well to reread those words.

The answer to bigotry and anti-Semitism does not lie in fanatical Jewish nationalism. Of course the blowing-up of the King David Hotel, the hanging of the two British sergeants, the assassination of Bernadotte, the massacre of Arab women and children at Dier Yasin were all acts of tiny groups. But they have weakened the moral and spiritual stature of the world’s oldest religion. Israel’s terrorist Beigin and Hollywood’s Ben Hecht, who encouraged such lawlessness by saying, “Every time you let go with your guns at the British betrayers of your homeland, the Jews of America make a little holiday in their hearts!” such people are doing the Jews more harm than any words which Goebbels spoke.

There was no holiday in my heart, nor in that of the late Rabbi J. L Magnes, president of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who said sadly following that Hecht statement: “We had always thought that Zionism would diminish anti-Semitism in the world. We are witness to the opposite.”

All too many Christians have supported Zionism because they felt that Jews, having been persecuted, should now have what they want whether it is good or bad for them. Christian leaders can help us greatly. But Christian sympathy for Jews should be measured not in terms of support for Jewish nationalism in distant Israel but in accepting us as friends, neighbors and first-class citizens of this our country. That is true liberal Christianity. And also, Mother, good Judaism, that fine old faith which you taught me as a little child.

1949 The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. Pleasantville New York

Reprinted from the September, 1949 issue of The Reader’s Digest.

5 comments on “Israel's Flag Is Not Mine

  1. Gene
    30 March, 2009

    When he died in 2008, WRMEA posted this obituary. Alfred Lilienthal was a very interesting figure who would have had much to teach us were he still alive. He did put up a website with what look like very interesting documents. Unfortunately the links have for the most part all gone cold. I wish his site could be reactivated & the links restored.

    Parts of one of his books can be read online. It’s most interesting. I hope his voice is not completely silenced. He donated all his papers to the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

  2. Freeborn
    30 March, 2009

    What was never vouchsafed was that the Israeli flag was the masonic flag of the vast Rothschild financial empire.

    The said empire needed an aggressive state with its own intelligence,military and offshore banking facilities and had blackmailed the British and US governments to bring it about.

    Firstly the Germans had virtually won the war by 1917.The British were desperate to reverse the tide of the conflagration they had done so much to set in motion by bringing in the Americans.Weizman secured the British comitment to create the Jewish homeland on confiscated Palestinian land by agreeing to mobilize key the veritable vespiary of Rothschild assets and dual citizen Zionists already active at elite levels of the US administration.

    Two key players were Samuel Untermeyer and Jacob Schiff.The latter worked for Walter Rothschild to whom the Balfour Declaration had been addressed.Untermeyer and Schiff had financed Wilson’s Presidential campaign and they also paid off a former lover of Wilson who was blackmailing the President.

    Oh,yes the Lobby has always chosen leaders with skeletons in the cupboard so be warned Mr Obama!

    Thus just as Roosevelt was to go to the country on a platform of keeping the US out of WW2 the man who had stood on the same platform in WW1 was turned by the Israeli Lobby into a vigorous promoter of US involvement.

    One could almost forgive the arrogance of players like Schiff in their belief that a piece of Palestinian real estate could be handed over by their equally arrogant British benefactors.Let us not forget that Schiff bank-rolled Trotsky and the Bolsheviks too.

    Some arrogance on his part about his role in world affairs is pretty typical of the financial empire of which we speak! After all present day Rothschild assets like Mandelson and Soros are not known for their modesty!

    Lilienthal makes clear to us what an ace the Zionists held in their hand and just what leverage over assimilated anti-Zionist Jews the Holocaust gave them.

    For Zionists the British typically reneged on the promise to deliver Palestine after WW1.Indeed by the 1930s the entire project seemed on the point of being dead in the water.Emigration from Palestine towards the end of the decade exceeded immigration into it.

    The Holocaust and the territorial domination the Soviets were bequeathed by Roosevelt and Eisenhower and the impoverished state of Britain at the end of WW2 meant that promises extorted by blackmail and almost inevitable defeat in 1917 were fulfilled in 1948.

  3. Freeborn
    30 March, 2009

    Pardon me,before you Zionists,Mossad and Holocaust fundamentalists go into overdrive…….

    Of course,the decade where it started to go tits-up in Palestine for the Zionists was the 1920s when settlers were clamouring in droves to get the hell out.

    Then lo and behold in the next decade as a sequel to the hyperinflation,they themselves had instigated with the terms they set at Versailles,the Hitler phenomenon was created by the very same City of London and Wall interests who had been the major Zionist benefactors from the start.

    One of the few politicians at Versailles who had resisted Weizmann was a French Jew called Silvain Levi who believed that the settlers would dispossess the indigenous population,that the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine would set a dangerous precedent in terms of dual nationality status and that the settlers would inevitably be of the explosive Russian type.

    How right he and the mass of Jews against Zionism together with the reform rabbis who in 1942 founded the Jewish Council for Judaism proved to be.

    See Kolsky’s Jews Against Zionism for the history of the first and only group established to fight against Zionism and the establishment of a Jewish state.

    On Hitler’s role in catalyzing the flow into Israel see Hennecke Kardel’s Hitler:Founder of Israel.

  4. Michelle
    21 May, 2009

    very informative comments! Thank you for the education and sources to follow up!

  5. Ed Corrigan
    30 September, 2009

    Is there a source for this comment?

    Silvain Levi who believed that the settlers would dispossess the indigenous population,that the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine would set a dangerous precedent in terms of dual nationality status and that the settlers would inevitably be of the explosive Russian type.

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This entry was posted on 29 March, 2009 by in Israel, Judaism, Palestine, USA, Zionism and tagged , .

Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

"The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"