by JF

There is something about Edwin Black’s books that make them impossible for me to read cover to cover. His book about the criminal history of the IBM corporation I could only get through the first half of it–though I recognize that it was a masterful book; this book I read all the way through, but not without cursorily skimming through huge chunks of it. He is a most assiduous researcher–much too assiduous for any kind of historical dabbling. His books follow so many minute and ancillary details of appurtenant subjects and characters, his writing is so impassive and systematic, that his books are not page-turners at all; they are better suited for research and reference purposes, historical documents worthy of keeping on the shelf, there to be consulted when need be. But the act of reading them is a chore.

At any rate, this is about the secret 1930s deal between Labor Zionist and Nazi Party elites which very few people know about. While most of the rest of the Jewish Community around the world was calling for a boycott of German goods in order to bring the fledgling Nazi regime to its knees at a time when this was very feasible, leading Labor Zionists forged a backroom deal with Hitler and the Nazis that would bring certain numbers of German Jews into Palestine in order to lay a foundation for a Jewish state. In return, Labor Zionist officials agreed that Jews in Palestine would engage in brisk trade in German goods, and would also do all they could to suppress the burgeoning, global, anti-Nazi boycott effort by members of other Jewish defense organizations, including their most bitter rival, the second largest faction of the Zionist movement itself, the Revisionist Zionists led by Vladimir Jabotinsky, who wanted Palestine populated with Jews even more quickly, and with no ignoble deals with Hitler. Interestingly, it seems that most of the Zionist leadership back then was seriously more interested in fighting one another than in fighting Hitler. This historical infighting between Revisionists and Labor Zionists was the most interesting part of the book. Black records, as does Barry Chamish maintain today, that the Labor Zionists wanted only well-to-do Jews to come to settle and form the foundation of modern Israel; whereas the Revisionists wanted Israel to be a sanctuary for all Jews, rich and poor alike. The Labor Zionists eventually won out. But Black asks the question: At what cost? And he makes it clear that a worldwide Jewish boycott of German goods could quite likely have ended the Hitler menace in its faltering early stages. It was because of the policies and actions of the Labor Zionists that this did not happen.

Black sometimes does more than pose questions; sometimes he draws singular and startling conclusions from his research. For example, he maintains that, so eager was Hitler to pursue this “transfer agreement” that, when Britain and other nations were attrociously acting to impede Jewish refugees from fleeing Europe, that was when and why Hitler resorted to the discharging of the “warning shot” that history now calls the Night of the Long Knives. Hitler, says Black, was warning the world that unless these other nations allowed the German Jews to be transferred to Palestine and/or these same other hypocritical nations, then he was going to resort to genociding them. We all know what happened after that.

However, it is regrettable that Black’s indictment focuses mainly upon Britain and lets the U.S. off somewhat easily. Black chose not to include the tragic history of the ocean liner the “St. Louis” in which both Cuba AND the U.S. refused sanctuary to 900 Jewish refugees, who then were forced to return to Europe and the holocaust that awaited many of them. Black, again, likes to painstakingly accrue so many historical details in his writing; so then why would he focus on castigating Britain, but not include this secret and sordid episode in U.S. history? Is it because he is a writer living and writing in the U.S.? I have to think so. Either that or he really really has a thing for FDR. Yuck.

This is little known history about the formation of the modern nation of Israel. More stuff we’re not supposed to know, no doubt.

Rating: Δ Δ Δ Δ