You write that Wallace even criticized Harry Truman for his Middle East stance, claiming that he “talks Jewish and acts Arab.”
Truman didn’t support de jure recognition, only de facto recognition. He also imposed an arms embargo, so Americans could get arrested for running guns to the Haganah or Irgun. So Truman was kind of equivocating….
In 1947, the Haganah had almost no weaponry to speak of – no heavy artillery, no heavy machine guns, and so on. The armaments they acquired came – with Soviet approval – from Czechoslovakia. These were obsolete weapons that the Haganah had to pay a good deal for, but nonetheless they were helpful.
In fact, many Jewish pilots, veterans of World War II from around the world, went to Czechoslovakia for flight training since Israel had no air force to speak of. English was the major language within the Israeli air core in ‘48 for this reason, since these pilots were largely from America and British Commonwealth countries.
You also write interestingly that American communists aggressively protested anti-Semitism in the United States after World War II – almost at the same time that Stalin was embarking on an aggressive campaign against Jews in the Soviet Union. How do you explain that?
The communists after World Ward II believed that a fascist takeover was imminent [in America]. This was what they called the “five minutes to midnight line,” and they felt they would have to go underground. They also believed that anti-Semitism was a feature of a new fascism and that they had to combat it.
So when this film “Oliver Twist” was released in the British zone of occupation in Germany in 1948, the communists protested vehemently and even aggressively demonstrated at theaters where it was being shown, saying that it was offensive to Jews. They also denounced the U.S. government for being too slow in moving Jews out of the DP camps, many of which were former Nazi concentration camps where they were held behind barbed wire. And they also picketed the movie “The Desert Fox” in 1951, which they saw as glorifying the Nazi general Rommel. They took the lead in some places in doing that.
At the same time, they claimed there was no anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union because the Soviet Union had made it illegal, as if that were the end of the discussion. They also pointed out that the Soviets had established an autonomous Jewish region, Birobidzhan, which they claimed was a bountiful area where Jews could thrive when, in fact, Birobidzhan was this remote, swampy, heavily-forested area off on the border of Manchuria that never amounted to anything.
In 1958, in an interview with a Paris newspaper, Khrushchev finally admitted that Birobidzhan had not been a success but that was because – he said – the Jews were unable to organize themselves collectively. They were too strongly individualistic to live in a functioning society together, and besides, they were too intellectually oriented. They argue too much, and so on.
You write a lot in the book about anti-Zionism on the American left over the last 50 years or so. Why is there so much more anti-Zionism on the political left than on the political right?
That’s a very good question because it used to be the reverse. When I was growing up, it tended to be liberal Democrats who were more sympathetic to Israel, not conservative Republicans. As late as 1968, the major liberal Democrats – Bobby Kennedy, Eugene McCarthy and Hubert Humphrey – were all very staunchly pro-Israel.
The whole civil rights leadership was also strongly supportive of Israel: Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, Martin Luther King, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin – all solid supporters.