One of our colleagues in Partners for Progressive Israel brought something that disturbed her on Facebook, to our attention: a link to “The Zionist-Nazi Collaboration” by William James Martin, a piece published in Dissident Voice (July 8th, 2012), “a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice.” This noxious view of Zionism damages Israeli-Palestinian relations to this day, as evidenced in a January article in the Times of Israel news website quoting P.A. Pres. Mahmoud Abbas from a recent interview on Lebanese television:
“I challenge any of them [the Israelis] to deny the ties between Zionism and Nazism before World War II,” Abbas said, adding that he had 70 unpublished books [on the topic] which he promised to expand upon in a future interview.
The title of Abbas’s doctoral dissertation, written in the Soviet Union, is “The other side: The secret relationship between Nazism and Zionism.”
I don’t doubt that many if not all of the quotes meant to incriminate Zionism in the Dissident Voice article are accurate. What is fanciful is the assertion that Zionism was complicit philosophically and politically with Nazism and that the relatively small Zionist movement could have ever thwarted the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust if it had not tried to come to an accommodation in the 1930s (known as the “Transfer Agreement”).
If you read the classic anthology of Zionist thought, “The Zionist Idea,” by our late friend, the renowned historian, rabbi and liberal Jewish activist, Arthur Hertzberg, you’d see that early Zionists thinkers from Herzl on down did think of Jews in the Diaspora as an alien mass which could not be assimilated; that was, in fact, largely the Jewish experience. One cannot look back on the late 19th to mid 20th centuries and say otherwise. For example, antisemitism reigned to varying degrees and in varying ways from most of Eastern Europe — e.g., Czarist Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine — thru France of the Dreyfus Affair and Vichy; and this is without even mentioning Nazi Germany and the fact that Jabotinsky accurately predicted the coming of the Holocaust.
I’ve written about the Transfer Agreement and the Stern Gang efforts to reach out to the Nazis (distorted by Lenni Brenner and others) on our blog and elsewhere. This is from one of my blog pieces:
Extreme anti-Zionists, such as Lenni Brenner …, ignore the fact that Zionism has always included a wide spectrum of political factions and ideologies. For example, Brenner harps upon the efforts of the Lehi underground (the Stern Gang) to ally themselves with the Nazis early in WW2; the Lehi commanded the allegiance of about ten percent of the Revisionist movement — which in itself amounted to a ten percent minority of Israel’s pre-State Jewish population.And (if I’m not mistaken) Brenner also refers scathingly to Zionist emissaries negotiating with Nazis at various times in order to save Jewish lives. One such effort, the “Transfer Agreement,” saved about 60,000 German Jews by ransoming them to Palestine. Another was by Rudolph Kastner or Kasztner, head of a Zionist rescue committee who failed to get a deal with Eichmann to save the Jews of Hungary; he did succeed in saving one trainload of over 1600 (ironically including a future Rebbe of the anti-Zionist Satmar Hasidic sect). Since those rescued included his own family, he was hounded by Revisionists in Israel as a “Nazi collaborator” and assassinated in 1957.
Differences among Zionists were and remain so stark that A. B. Yehoshua, one of Israel’s best-known novelists and an outspoken Zionist of dovish coloration (who has publicly identified himself with Meretz), has described Zionism as a common “platform” rather than a single movement. …
And this is from a film review of mine, which discusses the Transfer Agreement in some detail:
Early in the days of the Nazi regime, the Zionist movement negotiated with the Nazis to ransom tens of thousands of German Jews. They broke a widespread boycott of Nazi Germany at the time with an agreement (the Transfer Agreement) to buy German goods to go with the 60,000 or more German Jews who found refuge in Palestine in the 1930s. Anti-Zionists argue that this episode proves that the Zionists were in league with the Nazis, but this is a very tendentious and extreme interpretation. …In August 1933, [the World Zionist Organization and the Nazi regime] signed the so-called Ha’avara [Transfer] Treaty, which functioned as follows: Jews that were willing to migrate deposited their property at one of the transfer banks in Germany. With this money, [Jewish] Palestinian importers bought merchandise from Germany and sold it in Palestine. The profits would be given back to the Jewish family, minus the expenses. Because the German government heavily taxed other forms of capital transfer, the Ha’avara treaty was a good opportunity to export Jewish property. Furthermore, indigent Jewish families had an opportunity to migrate through the treaty, as the “token money” of 1,000 Palestinian pounds (about 15,000 Reichsmark) required to enter Palestine was financed by the profits of the merchandise transfer.
…. While in its first years of existence the treaty was supported by most of the institutions of the Nazi regime …, [this lessened] from 1935 on. The … German side did not make enough money in foreign currency, [and] had to finance the “token money” out of their pocket…. The security service feared that the treaty could support the establishment of a Jewish state, which could serve the Jews as a “basis of power” in their fight against Germany. From 1937, most of the government distanced itself from the support of the transfer treaty. … The common view became prevalent, that the treaty did not quite accelerate Jewish emigration as desired. … The treaty was discontinued officially in 1941, the transfer of property having already stopped at the beginning of the war. [But] … more than 50,000 Jewish families migrated through the Ha’avara treaty, taking with them property worth 140 million Reichsmark.