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Posts Tagged ‘Rafael Medoff’

Netanyahu Follows Father’s Path In Amassing Bipartisan Support

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

The enthusiastic response Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received when he addressed Congress on May 24 came from both sides of the aisle. Democrats and Republicans both took part in the numerous standing ovations.

Afterward, Democrats and Republicans made statements criticizing President Obama’s positions and supporting Israel’s.

But perhaps it is not so surprising that the prime minister was able to attract such bipartisan support. His father accomplished something similar 67 years ago.

In the summer of 1944, 34-year-old Benzion Netanyahu was the executive director of the American wing of Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s Revisionist Zionist movement.

One of Benzion Netanyahu’s tasks was to help mobilize support in Washington for free Jewish immigration to Palestine and the creation of a Jewish state. That was no small job at a time when the British opposed Jewish immigration and statehood, and the Roosevelt administration preferred not to intervene.

The Revisionists often used tactics that the mainstream Zionists considered too aggressive. For example, Netanyahu and his colleagues repeatedly placed large advertisements in The New York Times and other leading newspapers with headlines such as “The White Paper Must Be Smashed, if Millions of Jews Are to Be Saved!” and “Is America to Be a Party to the Palestine Betrayal?”

These challenges to Allied policy did not sit well with mainstream Jewish leaders such as Rabbi Stephen Wise, who was deeply loyal to President Roosevelt, the New Deal and the Democratic Party. In his private correspondence, Wise called the president “the All Highest” and “the Great Man.”

Much to the Jewish establishment’s chagrin, Netanyahu actively cultivated relationships with Republican members of Congress and party leaders. For Wise, building friendly relations with FDR’s political foes was inconceivable. For Netanyahu it was political common sense. Roosevelt had no incentive to address Jewish concerns if he believed Jewish votes were in his pocket.

Only if there were a credible threat of Jews voting Republican would FDR see a reason to reconsider his cold policy toward Jewish refugees and Zionism.

In the months leading up to the June 1944 Republican National Convention, Netanyahu and his colleagues undertook what they called “a systematic campaign of enlightenment.” They met repeatedly with former president Herbert Hoover, 1936 GOP presidential nominee Alf Landon and influential Republican members of Congress such as Rep. Clare Booth Luce (wife of the publisher of Time and Life).

At a Revisionist dinner that spring, Luce said Great Britain’s blockade of Jewish refugee ships bound for Palestine was to blame for the fact that “Jewish blood stains the blue Mediterranean red.”

In their meetings, the Revisionists asked the Republicans to include a pro-Zionist plank in their 1944 platform. Neither party had ever formally endorsed the cause of Jewish statehood, but the GOP leaders clearly were sympathetic. On the eve of the convention, Luce called Netanyahu and said, only half joking, “I’m going now to do your work at the convention.”

Meanwhile, an additional lobbying effort was undertaken by Abba Hillel Silver, the activist Cleveland rabbi who in 1943 had been elevated to the co-chairmanship of the American Zionist movement alongside Wise. Silver, who enjoyed a close relationship with Sen. Robert Taft of Ohio, lobbied Taft and other leading Republicans on the platform issue.

The GOP’s final platform not only endorsed Jewish statehood in Palestine, as Silver wanted, but also criticized Roosevelt, as Netanyahu wanted. It declared: “We condemn the failure of the President to insist that the mandatory of Palestine carry out the provisions of the Balfour Declaration and of the mandate while he pretends to support them.”

Furious and embarrassed, Wise dashed off a letter to Roosevelt declaring that he was “deeply ashamed” of the “utterly unjust” wording of the Republican plank. In the pages of the Revisionist journal Zionews, Netanyahu commented that “It seems that to Dr. Wise and his friends, partisan politics are more important than truth and the interests of their people and their country.”

The Republican Party’s move had an important consequence: It compelled the Democrats to compete for Jewish support and treat the Jewish vote as if it were up for grabs. The Democratic National Convention in July 1944 for the first time endorsed “unrestricted Jewish immigration and colonization” of Palestine and the establishment of “a free and democratic Jewish commonwealth.”

A History Lession From Netanyahu Senior

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Israeli generals probably don’t cry very often. These are men of steel nerves, professional soldiers toughened by the rigors of battle and a lifetime devoted to strict military discipline.

But there was a moment during his recent swearing-in ceremony when the new chief of staff of the Israeli army, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, could not hold back his tears.

That moment came when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turned from the familiar generalities about army service to a very personal subject: the contrast between the suffering Gantz’s mother endured during the Holocaust and the national triumph her son’s career symbolizes.

What the audience did not know, however, was that there was also a personal element on Netanyahu’s side. Seventy years ago, his father, the scholar and Zionist activist professor Benzion Netanyahu, authored a stirring Passover eve proclamation likewise anchored in the themes of Jewish victory in the face of unbearable persecution and the ability of the Jews to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Prof. Netanyahu’s words offer one last lesson to take with us from this year’s Passover holiday.

“When your mother was liberated from Bergen-Belsen, she weighed just 28 kilograms [62 lbs.],” the prime minister noted. “I am certain that at the time, she never dreamed that 66 years later her son, yet to be born, would be the 20th chief of staff of the army of the State of Israel, the Jewish state. Perhaps she did not dream of such a thing, but it has come true before our eyes.”

Lt.-Gen. Gantz made it clear, in his remarks at the ceremony, that he appreciated the historical significance of the journey from Bergen-Belsen to Jerusalem, from Jewish weakness and homelessness to sovereignty and independence.

“I am the son of the Jewish people’s chain of generations,” he declared.

The Israeli army, after all, is not just any army, and its chief of staff is not just another general. They are intrinsically connected to the Jews’ unique national experience, both in exile and in their homeland.

Which is exactly the point Prof. Benzion Netanyahu made in his Passover 1941 message. At the time, Netanyahu served as executive director of the New Zionist Organization of America, the U.S. wing of the militant Revisionist Zionist movement. He was also editor of its biweekly publication, Zionews.

His lead editorial in each issue of Zionews typically dealt with the latest Palestine-related political developments and controversies, not something from the Jewish calendar. In fact, Netanyahu’s April 21, 1941 editorial was the only occasion in the journal’s five year-history that he devoted that premier space to a reflection on a Jewish holiday.

“For ages and generations we have assembled in our homes on the first and second evenings of Passover to commemorate the liberation of our forefathers from the slavery of Egypt,” he began.

“Thousands of years have passed since; new slavery, hatreds and persecutions followed our race into every corner of the world.”

He cited a number of examples of such persecutions, including, of course, the Jews being “burned on the fires of the Spanish Inquisition,” which was the subject of the Ph.D. dissertation he was then writing.

Netanyahu also recalled how the Jews were “uprooted [by the Romans] from free and independent Judea to be slaves.” They were “beaten and killed by the Cossacks of the Ukraine.” The “Russian pogromists shed our blood like water.” “The Arab effendis have proclaimed a holy war on us.” And “Hitler and Mussolini have started a march of extermination against us.”

Yet the suffering of the Jews could never separate them from their faith or extinguish their hopes:

“Through oceans of blood, our blood, through oceans of tears, our tears, hated, persecuted, beaten, wandering and homeless, we assemble at the Passover Seder to thank God for our liberation from Egypt, and to express once again the hope of the [Haggadah]: ‘This year we are still slaves – next year we shall be free men.’”

“It is a great hope,” Prof. Netanyahu concluded. “It is a great spirit of a great nation. Only a nation of our spiritual caliber could come through the ages of unparalleled sufferings with its spirit unbroken; still alive; still striving for liberty. Next year we shall be free men.”

Obama, Libya And The Holocaust

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

President Obama and his supporters have defended U.S. military action in Libya by invoking America’s failure to respond to mass murder in Rwanda, Bosnia and even the Holocaust. Do those experiences indeed offer useful lessons for the current crisis?

In his national address on March 28, the president pointed out that “when people were being brutalized in Bosnia in the 1990s, it took the international community more than a year to intervene with air power to protect civilians.”

White House Middle East adviser Dennis Ross reportedly said at a briefing for foreign policy experts on March 23 that there was a danger in Libya of a “Srebrenica on steroids” – referring to the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims by Serb militiamen.

National Security Council official Samantha Power, who reportedly played a major role in the U.S. decision to intervene in Libya, has described her unsuccessful attempt as a young journalist to alert the world about the imminent attack on Srebrenica as one of the formative events in her life.

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen cited the Evian conference, in 1938, at which the United States and other countries refused to open their doors to Jews fleeing Nazi Germany.

“Lives were clearly at stake [in Libya] and something had to be done,” Cohen wrote. “The world could not simply shove its hands in its pockets and stand by as some madman had his way with people in his grip – in spirit, a reprise of the Evian conference.”

“We learned a lot in the 1990s,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has said in her comments on the Libya action, referring to the importance of not repeating the world’s slow response to the killings in Bosnia and Rwanda.

The people of Libya undoubtedly appreciate that they are the beneficiaries of the current administration’s effort to learn from America’s past mistakes. Of course, the people of Bahrain or Syria may be wondering what disqualifies them from U.S. military support.

Clinton’s explanation on “Face the Nation” that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, unlike Moammar Khaddafi, is “a reformer,” probably will not impress many of Assad’s victims. Chinese dissidents, for their part, have been questioning Clinton’s judgment ever since her assertion, during her February 2009 visit to China, that human rights issues “can’t interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis, and the security crisis” that she was discussing with Beijing’s leaders.

Still, there can be no denying the fact that America’s action in Libya constitutes a significant change from the policies of some previous presidents.

It was not so long ago, after all, that another secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, was telling the president that “if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern.”

And Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was president during the years when Jews from the (Nazi-occupied) Soviet Union were indeed put into gas chambers, likewise thought it was not an American concern.

Today, by contrast, America’s president has declared that the United States has “responsibilities to our fellow human beings.” That “preventing genocide” is “important to us” and one of our “core principles.” And that “some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries, [but] the United States of America is different.”

The people of Libya are not comparable to the Jews of Europe during the Holocaust. Neither are the people of Syria or Bahrain. There is no danger of genocide in those countries. On the other hand, based on the historical record in that part of the world, we know the possibility of a dictator massacring thousands of his own citizens is very real.

The fact that America’s current leaders recognize a role for historical lessons in shaping policy decisions is certainly a welcome change from the attitudes of some of their predecessors.

Rafael Medoff is director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

Three-State Solution

   In his fine column of Sept. 15, Louis Rene Beres noted that Israel was not the aggressor in 1967 and as such was justified in using anticipatory self-defense. That point should be clarified: Israel used preemptive self-defense only against Egypt. Both Syria and Jordan initiated hostilities with attacks against Israel.
 
   Indeed, Israel had promised Jordan’s King Hussein that it would not attack Jordanian-occupied Judea and Samaria (the so-called West Bank) and East Jerusalem if he remained neutral in the event of hostilities with Egypt. Hussein chose not to do so, and thus lost his Western Palestine lands.
 
   It bears reiteration that Jordan, created in 1946 out of 78 percent of British Mandate Palestine, is Eastern Palestine. It is the Arab state in Palestine, just as Israel, which controls Western Palestine, is the Jewish state in Palestine. In other words, the so-called Two-State Solution is in fact a Three-State Solution.
 

Edward M. Siegel

New York, NY

 

Beware Dem Takeover

   Ed Lasky’s Oct. 6 op-ed article (“The Implications for Israel If Democrats Recapture the House”) should be a wake-up call for all those who care about the U.S./Israel relationship. The Democratic Party’s support for Israel has paled, of late, when compared with that of the Republicans. And several recent polls indicate that Democratic voters are far less inclined than their Republican counterparts to support Israel.
 
   There is one point that Mr. Lasky overlooked: If the Democrats do take control of the House of Representatives, you can be sure that impeachment proceedings against President Bush will promptly follow. This would, of course, undermine if not totally immobilize the Bush administration.
 
   Not only would Israel suffer – Bush has been a remarkably strong friend of Israel and has treated Palestinian leaders with far more skepticism than his predecessors in the Oval Office – but the war against terror will be doomed and our efforts to install democracy in Iraq will come to naught.
 

Harold Frankel

Cincinnati, OH
 
 
Count On Rangel

   Ed Lasky certainly paints an alarming picture of what might happen if the Democrats retake Congress. As he says, some of the Democrats who are in line to assume the chairmanship of key committees have disturbingly negative records when it comes to supporting Israel.

 
   But while I generally share his concerns, I do not think that Congressman Charles Rangel – one of the politicians Mr. Lasky warns about and who would become chair of the enormously powerful Ways and Means Committee – should be lumped together with the others.
 
   Rangel is the quintessential politician, and as a New Yorker with many Jewish acquaintances in both his public and private lives, he can be counted on to do the right thing.
 
   Lasky may well be accurate in his assessment of the other Democrats he mentions, but in Rangel’s case he offers pure speculation. I do agree, though, that in general the Democratic Party has a pro-Third World mindset that in many cases translates into antagonism toward Israel.
 

Robert Kravitz

(Via E-Mail)
 
 
Deception And Kashrus

   I write to add my voice to that of reader Pinchas Hammerman (Letters, Oct. 6) on the Monsey kashrus scandal. I find absolutely infuriating the tendency in some rabbinic circles to maintain that anything even remotely or indirectly involving halacha is the exclusive purview of rabbis.

 
   The Monsey scandal was not fundamentally about halachic standards for supervision but about a system that allowed a person to deceive his kosher supervisor – and to do so for a very long time.
 
   Adherence to halacha in this case was obviously not enough – but there was no “heads-up” given by the supervising rabbi that the possibility for deception even existed. Should we not now demand disclosure as to the actual extent of supervision? Is the rabbi, no matter how fine a man or how big a talmid chacham, blameless even if he was going by the book, so to speak?
 
   What exactly did this rabbi think his imprimatur meant to consumers if not that he, as the certifying supervisor, was certain beyond a doubt that the product was kosher?
 

Dov Grossman

Jerusalem
 

 Free Speech For All

   While I found last week’s editorial “Fear of Muslim Power” very insightful, I feel it failed to address a question that should have immediately suggested itself: Is there a substantive difference between what the Muslims do when they seek censorship and what the Christian and Jewish communities do when they seek to stop anti-Christian museum displays or anti-Jewish and anti-Israel advocates from speaking in the public square?

 
   I do appreciate that your editorial drew the distinction of Muslim violence and threats of violence. But there have been a number of recent instances where appearances on campus by anti-Israel spokesmen were called off for fear of a potentially violent reaction on the part of pro-Israel students. I certainly don’t agree with the position of the pro-Palestinian provocateurs, but I wonder whether our community is best served by seeking to curtail mere speech.
 
   Personally, I am repelled by Holocaust deniers and those who defend the murder of little children. It behooves us, however, to respond to these challenges with our heads, not our hearts.
 

Morris Finnestan

(Via E-Mail)

 

 

FDR And The Holocaust

 Roosevelt’s Inaction

      Thank you for publishing Rafael Medoff’s highly informative article on the failure of Franklin Roosevelt to concern himself with the savagery of the Holocaust, which of course was ongoing during his watch (Whitewashing FDR on the Holocaust,” front-page essay, Oct. 6).
 
      Given the enormity of the crimes, FDR’s inaction was and remains inexcusable. Had he taken even minimal action, who knows how many Jewish lives might have been spared? Perhaps a Jew such as Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter would not have said “I don’t believe the reports” when confronted with the evidence of the Nazi genocide.
 
      And perhaps – had FDR’s blas? attitude toward saving Jews not permeated the corridors of power in Washington – FDR’s successor, Harry Truman, would have sent Israel the arms it so desperately needed in its war of independence.
 

Jerry Boris

Philadelphia, PA
 

 

Jewish Culpability
 
      Despite repeated attempts to whitewash the truth, there is little doubt that many Jews in Europe were not saved due to the interference and obstructionist behavior of several high-profile American Jews.
 
      Chief among them, as Dr. Medoff amply demonstrates, were Samuel Rosenman of the American Jewish Committee and Stephen Wise of the American Jewish Congress.
 
      Wise stood out as an insidious instigator who worked counterproductively against attempts by others to save European Jewry. His tremendous influence in Washington and on Jewish opinion could have swayed the U.S. government to pursue a more aggressive course of intervention. In light of his completely negative influence during this horrific time in history, I find it abhorrent that several Jewish landmarks are named in his honor.
 
      There have always been attempts to excuse the inexcusable and justify the unjustifiable. But certainly when it comes to the Holocaust, there should be no excuses made for the disgraceful actions of those who were in a position to save their fellow Jews but didn’t.
 
      To add insult to injury, in order to spare the reputations of those who thwarted all efforts to assist Europe’s Jews, slanderous allegations have been made in an attempt to tarnish one of the few heroes of that time – Peter Bergson.
 
      Justice is well served whenever the real activities of the obstructionists are exposed and the heroics of Bergson and his equally valiant allies are trumpeted.
 

Adina Kutnicki

Elmwood Park, NJ

 

FDR Vs. GWB

      Tremendous work by Rafael Medoff, and kudos to The Jewish Press for featuring it so prominently. Dr. Medoff absolutely decimated Robert Rosen’s foolish book, which should have been titled Ignoring the Jews rather than Saving the Jews.

      Unfortunately, Jews never learn, and most still worship the memory of Roosevelt. Ironically, the same lemmings who adore FDR positively hate George W. Bush, despite the latter’s resolute backing of Israel. I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that had Mr. Bush been in the White House in the 1940′s, a lot more Jews would be alive today. And Jewish liberals would still despise him.

Yitzchak Heimowitz
Ramat Gan, Israel

 

Rosen Is Right

     Robert Rosen had it right in his book. Without FDR’s superb leadership, World War II would have been lost and world Jewry would eventually have been destroyed. If the critics think that Farley, Garner, Taft or others who might have been elected in 1940 would have saved any Jews, they are sadly mistaken.

 
      If FDR had died in 1940 or had not run and we had not won the war, the Jews would have been a bargaining chip for our own homemade fascists: Lindbergh, Coughlin, Ford, and countless others. Read Lucy Dawidowicz‘s book The War Against the Jews.
 

Richard Garfunkel

(Via E-Mail)

 

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