Monday, January 23, 2017

When Beinart's Hero Called My Hero a Fascist

Rabbi Stephen S. Wise is Peter Beinart's hero.

Back in 1935, during Ze'ev Jabotinsky's visit to the United States*, Wise took exception to Jabo's policies and used the term "fascism":

“Revisionism on the ethical-social side runs counter to every ideal and idealism of the Jewish people and of the Jewish tradition. Revisionism does not mean peace in Palestine. Revisionism speaks of peace in Palestine but it actually means war in Palestine against the Jewish workers, war in Palestine upon the Jewish pioneers, above all, war in the name of truce upon all that for which Jews have stood and fought and died throughout the ages.

“I grieve to say it, for my battle is not with Jabotinsky but with Hitlerism and with Nazism, but the truth is that Revisionism is a species of Fascism in Yiddish or Hebrew, uttering its commands in the Hebrew language and therefore doubly baleful to us who believe that Hebrew should be the medium of a forward-looking hope, not of a dangerously reactionary movement. We zionists cannot accept Revisionism. We cannot support its leadership because we are resolved to be true to the Jewish tradition. For all that is best in Jewish life is permanently and indissolubly allied with the social and democratic ideals of our day and age even though for a time these have come under the displeasure and the shadow of the forces of wealth as is conscienceless and power that is limitless.”

Other reasons given by Rabbi Wise for his rejection of the Revisionist program are, “because Revisionism regards lightly and inadvisedly the claims of the Arabs in Palestine,” and “because the whole tradition of the Jewish people is against militarism.”

Here's a news report from March 28 on Jabo's response:

A sharply worded attack on Rabbi Stephen S. Wise was made here last night by Vladimir Jabotinsky, Revisionist leader, addressing a large audience in Chicago Orchestra Hall.
Taking exception to the recent attack made by Rabbi Wise on the Revisionist movement, Jabotinsky charged that Rabbi Wise has never made a study of the Revisionist program and based his allegations only on a superficial knowledge.
The meeting was opened by H. L. Meites, editor and publisher of an Anglo-Jewish weekly in Chicago. Mr. Meites, in his opening speech, told of the severe opposition which he encountered from various opposing groups in preparing the meeting. Charles P. Schwartz presided.
Mr. Jabotinsky started with an objection to Rabbi Wise’s characterizing the Revisionists as “Fascists.” He declared that the use of this term is an extremely serious matter.
“That is not a term of derogation,” Mr. Jabotinsky said, “but a name of a political belief of a power that is still friendly to the Jews. If such careless use is made of this term in a fight among the Jews, we face the danger of enrolling a new power among the ranks of our enemies, a power we need and need badly.”
“Rabbi Wise says that we are against social justice,” Mr. Jabotinsky continued. “I cannot understand his misuse of the word ‘justice.’ All one has to do is to pick up a dictionary and look up the meaning of this word. We object to the whole class war ideology and psychology and we do not want it in Palestine.”
Replying to Rabbi Wise’s assertion that the Revisionists advocate militarism, Mr. Jabotinsky said, “All one has to do is to get someone who can read and understand Hebrew and read our party program printed in Hebrew. He will then see how ridiculous it is to charge us with militarism. All we advocate is merely the protection of Jews in Palestine, since the British army in Palestine is not large enough to insure Jewish life and limb. We do not want a Jewish army. What we are doing is to prepare ourselves to have our own protection in case of necessity,” Jabotinsky explained.

Beinart still uses 'fascism' epithetically.



I now have found this, Jabotinsky's reply to Wise:

Long ago, an unkind American Jew told me this about Dr. Stephen Wise: “He has one great quality”, he says what he thinks; but he has one great defect, he doesn’t think.” 

I now begin to see how such an opinion, rather widespread in America, could have arisen. For “thinking” really implies also inquiring, and thoroughly inquiring; what is known as “documentation.” Dr. Wise, in his recent attack on Revisionism, has been singularly careless about consulting authentic sources or documents to get his facts.

“Revisionism demands sacrifices from Labor only, but not from Capital?” Our Vienna conference resolution of 1928, which proclaimed the Arbitration principle, clearly says, black on white: The Board of Arbitration shall have the right to fix both the minimum of fair wages for Labor and the maximum of fair profit on capital. The resolution, further, outlaws both strike and lockout as well as (“boycott of Jewish labor by Jewish employers”). Besides the principle of compulsory arbitration, by its very nature, is bound to hit both ways: honest arbitrators sometimes rule against the workers’ demands and sometimes against the employers’.

One might fear bias if it were a question of arbitrators appointed by a government but in our scheme, the arbitrators are to be elected by common consent of both the workers’ and the employers’ organizations. Those who have the habit of thinking before they speak would see the difference.

Elimination of strikes is “reactionary?” Let me recommend to Dr. Wise, for his documentation, one of the volumes he seems to have overlooked. A good authority on what is reactionary and what is progressive is the League of Nations: and, insofar as social problems are concerned, particularly its international labor office in Geneva. (run mostly by Socialists). This office published in 1933 a report of some 700 pages under the title “Conciliation and Arbitration in Industrial Disputes.” Now observe how this book defines “the general purpose” of that portion of the League of Nations Covenant “on which the International Labor organization is based”: “the improvement of the economic and social position of the workers, and the removal of the existing antagonism between employers and workers by peaceful means.” And further, in general conclusions, “conciliations and arbitration are thus a symbol of that idea of the community of interests between workers, employers is the basis of modern labor law and also of the constitution of the international labor organization.” (Page 141.)

A few more remarks which would not be necessary had there been a superficial effort at thinking before speaking:

1. The question whether it be liberal or unliberal for the State to “prohibit” strikes has no bearing on the Revisionist scheme. The Palestinian State is not to be asked for any intervention whatsoever. It is a matter of a free voluntary covenant between Jews and Jews. If both sides agree, well and good; if not, there will be no covenant; and even if all did agree, but a minority, however small, would still prefer to go on class-warring, it would (to my regret) be free to do so.

Equally safe, under that scheme is the principle of “organized labor”: no covenant can obviously have any value unless signed in the name of organizations. Still safer is the principle of “collective bargaining between all the workers and all the employers of one national community.

2. Safest of all is, under this scheme, the principle of “social justice.” Nobody can seriously and honestly maintain that strike and lockouts are methods of achieving “justice”; it is the side which has the largest war chest, not the side which has the fairest case, that wins in a strike or in a lockout. “Justice” excludes settlement of any strife by a direct clash between the parties: “justice” begins with the appointment of an impartial tribunal. Can Dr. Wise cavil at this elementary truth? What, then, are in his opinion those “Jewish ideals” he involves: stopping work in Jewish workshops of a Jewish country, scaring “pickets,” calling each other “class enemies” instead of going to a judge? Where, in what Scriptures, has Dr. Wise found authority for such a conception of “Jewish social ideals?” The answer is unfortunately obvious: he just omitted the little formality of research before speech.

But there also is a comical side to this arbitration controversy here in America. Before the end of this month the left wing Histadruth is to ratify, by a referendum, the “Labor Agreement” Mr. Ben Gurion and I signed in London; and that agreement culminates in the pledge to promote a Covenant implying black on white “obligatory arbitration.” What will these Tuxedo-clad strike fans of America do if the Histadruth ratifies the agreement?

Another brilliant sample: “To Revisionism, as to Fascism, the state is everything and the individual nothing.” Where, in what resolution or declaration or authoritative article have you read it? Personally I hate the very idea of a “totalitarian State,” whether Communist or Fascist, call them all “Polizei-Staat,” and prefer old-fashioned parliamentarism however clumsy or inefficient; and ninety-nine per cent of my hardy comrades share this attitude. What Dr. Wise obviously mistook for his bogey is the fact that we maintain and will go on maintaining├ó€”that the striving for the creation of a Jewish State should be, to all those who accept it as their ideal, miles above any class or individual interest. But so did Garibaldi hold the creation of the Italian State paramount, so did Lincoln the unity of America; which does not mean that they wanted an Italy or an America where the State would be everything and the individual nothing. To those who think before speaking, the difference should again be clear.

As to the charge that Revisionism wants “an Arabless Palestine”, in other words, the eviction of Arabs from Palestine, I very seriously warn Dr. Wise and any possible imitators of his: if I hear anything of this kind again, I will demand a Court of Honor, on the strength of that other London agreement which prohibits “aililoth” and “alila,” in good colloquial Hebrew, means calumny. Revisionism, in all its documents, official and unofficial, has always contended that in Palestine there is room for all the Jews who will ever need it and for all the Arabs with their progeny. But (to those who think before speaking) one thing ought to be clear even without “documents,” a party which stands for a “Jewish majority in Palestine” obviously foresees the presence of a “minority.”

There is, however, one point on which I should prefer not to deny Dr. Wise’s “documentation” but much rather simply to ask for his source and authority in making such a statement: this is his emphatic affirmation that it is “arrant nonsense or unforgivable to hold that the Jewish labor party is introducing class war in Palestine.” This is really cheering news, and I should love to know who authorized Dr. Wise, on behalf of the “Mapai” to dissociate that party from the class war principle. No, say├ó€”is it really true? Hurrah! Shall I cable the glad news to Palestine? “The Jewish Palestine Labor Party announces via New York that it no longer adheres to the class war idea.” Only I fear that the cable would provoke an angry denial; that the beautiful dream is premature, and that for the present we shall have to be satisfied with the reality, with the same phenomenon of eloquence dispensing with enquiry.



I had the pleasure of attending the mass meeting staged by Avukah last Saturday at which Vladimir Jabotinsky spoke [social justice dictates that the Arabs give up Palestine to the Jews...If you admit self-determination for the Arabs, where shall the Jews go? There is nowhere for them to go. Shall they go on starving and suffering because the world has not been evenly distributed?] This pleasure was not due altogether to hearing Mr. Jabotinsky, although, as we all know, he is perhaps the most stimulating orator we Jews have.
I got a great thrill out of observing how hundreds of our intelligent youth were drawn to a meeting of this sort. Of course, it is true, as our rabbis say, that large numbers of our children are indifferent to Jewish matters. And perhaps for just this reason I was so glad to see that some at least are awake and interested.
Jacob Rothberg
New York City.

1 comment:

Batya said...

This post is one of the  18 Interesting Jewish/Israeli Blog Posts, HH/KCC, First of 2017.

Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov!