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James M. Fenwick

Off Limits

British Troops & Anti-Semitism

(26 May 1947

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 21, 26 May 1947, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the ETOL.

Jewish complaints against the conduct of troops have been frequent, but little has been said about the soldiers’ attitude. It seems to vary from forthright, naked hate to mild complaints that the Jews are not polite to them.

“We troops who have come from an ex-enemy country, wish to live and let live, but if our comrades are shot, we’ll hate and really hate,” one recently wrote to the Palestine Post.

A young officer earnestly told this correspondent: “I didn’t have much experience of the Jerries – only in the bombing of London. But I hate Jews more than I hated the Jerries.”

Another young officer said: “These blokes don’t fight fairly. That’s what we dislike. This isn’t war. It is murder.”

New York Times report from Jerusalem, May 13, 1947

These blokes don’t fight fairly! Our interest in that cry does not lie in its irony. (There are 600,000 virtually unarmed Jews in Palestine brutally policed by 100,000 British soldiers armed to the teeth. That is one soldier for every six Jews. New York occupied on the same basis would have over a million armed men prowling its streets.) It is interesting as an example of the growing anti-Semitism being produced by the British policy in Palestine – and, secondarily, by the policy of such organizations as the Irgun Zvai Leumi and the Stern Group.

It is not necessary to question the authenticity of the news report which was quoted. Anyone with an elemental knowledge of army life and of human nature as of 1947 knows that the attitude attributed to the British soldier is an actual one.

The Roots of Anti-Semitism

The British soldier wants to go home. He particularly resents being retained in foreign service now that the war has long since been declared over. He doesn’t understand it. He knows that manpower is needed in England and that his family could use his aid. Nor does he like going after helpless men/women and children with fire hoses, tear gas, and police clubs – people with the tattooed serial numbers of the concentration tramps still on their bodies. If only these Jews would straighten up! he thinks. If only they would stop causing trouble! Then he could go home. The army orientation courses further confuse him. He hates the army for what it is subjecting him to, but he hates the Jews also.

The activities of such organizations as the Stern Group and the Irgun Zvai Leumi further alienate him. Shanghaied into an army he has no liking for he looks to the Jews and finds only a stony wall of hate or, at best, dislike. Enlisted men, along with the actual rulers of Palestine (the army officers and government officials) are shot, bombed, or blown up on mined roads and railways as if they were the guilty ones. With each new terrorist success the officers crack down. It is a life of constant tension, constant jeopardy. For lack of a socialist policy of fraternization the terrorist tactics solidify the front of the British officers and enlisted men. Anti-Semitism is augmented.

Soldiers write home. Parents worry over their sons in Palestine. The rotation of troops and their redeployment home completes the diffusion of anti-Semitic sentiments in England.

The U.S. Receives a Legacy

Every day that passes shows that the United States is going to have to assume Britain’s commitments in Palestine. One of them will be a growing legacy of anti-Semitism. This residue of British rule will only be increased by the United States, for U.S. capital has no intention of approaching the Jewish question as a human problem. It will’be handled only in the light of imperialist necessity.

Hanson W. Baldwin, the military commentator of the New York Times, has warned bluntly enough:

“... Palestine and the Middle East is a strategic and military problem as well as a human and political and social problem ... It must not be weighed solely in the scales of Jewish interests, Christian interests or Arab interests, but any solution must promote world stability and the interests of the United States. And we must remember that the oil of the Middle East is now vital to Britain’s great power position ...”

This policy will, among other things, guarantee the growth of anti-Semitism.

The defeat of Hitlerism did not resolve the Jewish problem. In one sense the death of 6,000,000 Jews has “legitimitized” anti-Semitism: the deaths serve as a precedent numbing the world’s sensibilities and permitting a lower, more callous approach to these hounded people.

What we are witnessing today is the almost unnoticed beginning of a new growth of anti-Semitism, which like some strange and horrible Pacific jungle-fungus which has been apparently checked, is found one morning corrupting the body of some heretofore healthy person.

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