Hal Draper

Zionism, Israel & the Arabs

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Chapter XI

German Reparations and ‘Blood-Responsibility’

Hal Draper, Zionism, Israel & the Arabs, pp. 169–171.

Labor Action, Vol. 16 No. 3, January 21, 1952, p. 3

The current uproar in Jewish circles here and in Israel over the question of German reparations to Jews offers a disturbing picture. It should at least be disturbing not only to socialists but also to genuine liberals, Jewish liberals first of all. To get perfectly clear about it, a general comment on approach has to be made first.

The excesses and mistakes of the victims of an outrage are by no means to be equated, or even discussed on the same level, with the barbarity of the perpetrators of the outrage themselves. We have at times had to make that point in a different but somewhat similar connection: the reaction of some among the Negro people to Jim Crow brutality.

There is the white chauvinism of the white-supremacy hoodlums and racists; and there is the “black chauvinism” of some misguided (and fortunately very few) Negro elements who react by becoming anti-white, instead of looking for allies among the white enemies of Jim Crow. This is no major problem for the Negro fight today, we are glad to say, and we recall it only for the lesson it teaches.

Such “black chauvinism” has been combated energetically by the best fighters for the Negro people, and it has to be, but this fight is on an entirely different plane from the fight against Jim Crow itself. The latter is the fight against the enemy camp; the former is a struggle against mistakes in that fight by people who ought to be in our camp. But unless those mistakes are set right, the enemy will not be beaten, but will be built up to greater strength.

Just as the “black chauvinist” reaction is understandable, in view of the horrible wrongs inflicted upon the Negro people by dominant elements of the white race, so also do we understand the emotional drives behind the attitudes being expressed in Jewish circles about German reparations. But these attitudes are wrong, self-defeating, and harmful to the Jewish people, and so it is not enough merely to sympathize with their motivation.

The question arose when the West German government, assuming responsibility for repairing the crimes against the Jewish people committed by the Nazi German regime, offered to pay reparations in order to help the surviving victims. A good part of such reparations would go to Israel.

The proposal has been greeted in the most prominent Jewish circles with an outburst of anti-German hatred. No, not anti-Nazi hatred – anti-German hatred.

The article by a Jewish liberal journalist which we reprint on this page describes the anti-German tempest in the American Jewish press. Along the same lines, on January 8 the N.Y. Herald Tribune reported a speech by the vice-president of the Zionist Organization of America, Jacques Torczyner, who denounced any acceptance of such payment as on a par with taking blood-money. “We shouldn’t even sit down at the same table with murderers of 6 million Jews,” he said.

The Israeli government is for accepting the reparations, because the money will help solve Israel’s financial problems, but its leaders and spokesmen are making doubly sure that their vituperations against the German people as a whole are somewhere near as violent as those of the Israeli fascist and semi-fascist chauvinists, whose hysteria is being whipped up by Menachem Begin of the Herut party. Prime Minister Ben-Gurion argued that reparations should be taken because “the murderer shall not keep his loot.”

On both of these sides the first principle is that the German people as such, and their leaders as such, are to be considered as murderers, Nazi exterminationists and on a par with the Hitlerites. They accept Hitler’s theory of racial guilt and national guilt. They merely turn it inside-out, just as the “black chauvinists” turn inside-out the racism of their oppressors. And they apply their racist theory to those who were the first victims of the Nazi criminals – the masses of the German people who fought and were conquered by Hitler, whose best elements suffered in Hitler’s concentration camps and whose survivors are not being recompensed.

Such a theory is a “natural,” for the Revisionists like Begin. It is, as we said, only too “understandable” on the part of others. What is disturbing is that so many Jewish liberals and socialists, who ought to know better, do not raise their voice or, what is worse, go along with the anti-German hysteria.

How deep this hysteria is may be seen in the following contrast:

Last year, when the socialist parties of various countries came together in Frankfurt, Germany, to re-create the Socialist International, the socialist Jewish Bund entered a protest – against the fact that the conference was being held on German soil! Behind this protest was the same kind of thinking that has burst out so virulently now.

Contrast this with even the notorious issue published by the editors of Collier’s magazine on how Russia was defeated in an atomic war. We deliberately refer to this horrific production because (as we sought to show in our article on it) there have been few more blatant examples of American chauvinism. Yet, even in this product of chauvinistic thinking, we find, as the editors of the magazine envisaged it, that following Stalin’s defeat and overthrow the world Olympic games are held in Moscow – as a demonstration of goodwill to the Russian people!

But is the German nation a nation of murderers, and the Russian nation is not? Were Hitler’s crimes (including the numbers murdered) greater than are Stalin’s? Did Hitler have that much more mass support or toleration or passive acceptance than Stalin? Or will Russia too become a nation of murderers if his mass holocausts extend to the Jews specifically as fully as they have blanketed the Russians – not to speak of the non-Russian subject nations within his empire?

It is to be hoped that this chauvinist poison will pass – not “forgiveness” for the crimes against the Jews, not forgetfulness of the ordeal of a people, but this chauvinist poison. Let the anger and hatred of the Jewish people, and for that matter of anyone who (say) has read The Wall – turn not against the German people in an inverted racist frenzy, but against the friends and heirs of Hitlerism still at large. Let them give support and encouragement to the most intransigent enemies of Hitlerism in Germany, the Social-Democratic Party, and remain less silent about the rehabilitation of former Nazi activists by the Adenauers with the toleration and even encouragement of U.S. officials! (That is, less silent about American responsibility for this development!)

There are still fascist elements in Germany, who are worming their way back; there are such in France and other Western countries, who have not yet built their gas chambers; anti-Semitism is blooming even more strongly in the Stalinist totalitarian world. It is not a question of races or nations, but of the totalitarian forces spawned by a decaying capitalist and Stalinist world. Not forgiveness and not racism – but a socialist fight against reaction is the answer.

Last updated on 27 August 2020