First Published: Jewish Affairs, Vol. 3, No. 4-5, April-May 1972.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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(Note: The following is a translation, somewhat abridged, of an editorial published in the March 1972 (No. 3) issue of the Soviet Yiddish monthly Sovetish Heimland.)
In contrast to the chauvinistic and militaristic atmosphere that has been predominant in Israel for some time, a convention of the Israeli-Soviet Friendship Movement was held last January in Tel Aviv, with the participation of close to 200 delegates from all over the country. The speakers represented a broad spectrum of Israeli public opinion. They included the well-known Hebrew author Mordechai Avi-Shaul; Yaakov Riftin, leader of the Socialist-Zionist Association of Israel; a representative of the City Council of Nazareth, Chalil Shuri; two distinguished attorneys, Abraham Melamed and Jachia Gusi; the journalist and noted public figure, Nathan Yalin-Mor; a veteran leader of the Israeli-Soviet Friendship Movement, Misha Eidelberg; and the Communist activist, Ruth Lubitch. A delegation of the Soviet Association for Friendship with Foreign Nations greeted this assembly in the name of the people of the U.S.S.R.
Could anyone, who is a true friend of Israel and the Soviet Union, have any doubts about the importance of this significant event?
In one newspaper, however, which enjoys the confidence of its readers because of its progressive traditions, we read the following report on this convention:
A Soviet delegation came to Israel to attend a conference on Israeli-Soviet Friendship. This event ought to be welcomed in spite of the fact that the gathering has been regretfully restricted only to the followers and sympathizers of Rakach (the Communist Party of Meir Vilner and Taufiq Toubi) and does not have the support of the Israeli public. . . . This conference, which was obviously organized by pre-arrangement with Moscow (? – Editors SH), is one of the steps for an understanding between the two countries, as weak as it is for the time being. (Our emphasis – Editors SH.)
It is interesting to know: Which newspaper was it that has expressed so much reservation in its report on the Soviet-Israeli Friendship Conference? Why did this newspaper have to resort to a lie, stating that the participation in the conference was restricted “only to followers and some sympathizers” of Rakach and did not receive the support of the Israeli public? Isn’t it evident that this friendship convention introduced a new factor in the public life of Israel, at a time when the 28th Zionist Congress was held in Tel Aviv, in a frenzy of anti-Soviet hysteria? Isn’t it a fact that the conference, which was convened in spite of the Begins, Meirs, and Dayans, represented the forces that are for friendship with the U.S. S. R. , who will in the near future indubitably become the majority in Israel, and are at present expressing the awakened conscience of that country?
We must state with deep regret that the quotation cited above has been taken from an editorial published by the Morning Freiheit (January 30, 1972).
We are getting letters from many Sovetish Heimland readers who are asking: “What has happened to the Morning Freiheit?” On what important ideological questions have the MF leaders deviated from the fundamental precepts of proletarian internationalism? One of the basic deviations is to be found in their position with regard to the U.S.S.R. The prevailing tendency in the material on the U.S.S.R. published by the Morning Freiheit in the last few years is as follows: In its general approach the line of the paper is against anti-Soviet propaganda; on concrete issues, however, the MF actually joins the anti-Soviet campaign under the guise of “constructive criticism.” To cite an example, the MF has joined the noisy “protests” that were whipped up at the time when the Warsaw Pact countries fulfilled their international obligations, assisting the people of Czechoslovakia who were defending themselves against the counter-revolutionary attacks from within and without their country.
When the editor of Undser Freint, a progressive Yiddish newspaper published in Uruguay, pointed this out in a polemic with the Morning Freiheit, the MF editors answered that they are not bringing up this question any more since it became evident, from a discussion conducted by the paper, that the majority of its readers supported the measures taken by the socialist countries, and also because they had particularly in view that the agreement concluded between the Moscow Pact leaders and the Chechoslovakian leaders should be carried out in life. Commenting on this statement, the editor of Undser Freint correctly noted:
But this is not enough. In a truly sincere, self-critical analysis, the Morning Freiheit would have to admit publicly its ideological errors in the evaluation of the Czechoslovak crisis. . . In our modest opinion these errors stem from the fact that at certain times the MF has dropped its compass (an expression used by the first MF leader, Moishe Olgin, at previous occasions when anti-Soviet hysteria was rampant in the American Jewish community. (– Editors SH) – the compass of internationalism; of solidarity with the U.S.S.R. (Undser Freint, April 27, 1969.)
The Morning Freiheit leadership has never made a sincere self-critical analysis of its errors.
The spokesman of the MF did not heed the advice of those readers, who called, in their letters to the editor for a class approach and consideration of the interests of the USSR in regard to the Leningrad trial. Meir Silves wrote (January 6, 1971): “Analyzing carefully the trial of the eleven (in Leningrad), it becomes evident that they have committed a horrible crime. The verdicts were rendered not on Jews but on criminals. Is this the time for an attack on the Soviet Union?” Anna Dubinsky stated in her letter (February 2, 1971): “It seems that the whole world is against the pirates who have endangered human lives hijacking airplanes. ... I believe that an alarm is being sounded not so much in the defense of those convicted, but more in order to spread hatred against the USSR, which is engaged in building a new, Socialist life. ...” A. Kenzer, from Los Angeles, rightly remarked in a subsequent letter (August 5, 1971): “Concerning transgressions or crimes in the Soviet Union, the Morning Freiheit always puts a particular emphasis on the Jewish element. When a crime or transgression is committed in the United States, it is usually reported that the people involved are Italians, Irishmen or Jews. In the Soviet Union, as we well know, everyone is recognized as a Soviet citizen. In the MF, however, it is constantly stressed that Jews are the ones who are being brought to trial. Other Soviet citizens are also punished but they are not mentioned in the MF, which creates an impression of Soviet anti-Semitism. Why such an approach?”
In its report on the trial of the airplane hijackers, the MF relied on very questionable sources. It was shameful to read in the year-end 1970 issue of the paper a “special report” on an anti-Soviet demonstration in New York, “organized by a number of Jewish organizations.” This meeting was chaired by a Rabbi named Klapperman. A greeting was sent by the reactionary Republican Senator Jacob Javits. The MF praised this demonstration as an expression “of deep concern for the convicted in Leningrad. ”...
The second major question on which the Morning Freiheit has digressed from the principles of Marxism-Leninism involves its approach to Zionism, its evaluation of the Israeli-Arab war.
According to the theory that the editor-in-chief of the MF, P. Novick, constantly preaches, there are “bad” Zionists and “good” Zionists. According to him it is necessary to collaborate with the ”good” Zionists. Hardly anyone will be taken in by the formula, “It is necessary to collaborate with good Zionists” for peace, which P. Novick uses as a cover-up. For this approach Novick1 s recommendations are, of course, unnecessary. The world peace movement is based upon the principle of broad collaboration with all shades of public opinion. Even multimillionaires (Cyrus Eaton) and presidents of bourgeois republics (the president of Finland, Kekkonen), even monarchs (Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia), oftentimes declare themselves as peace-advocates, and join in efforts for peace. What P. Novick, Chaim Suller and the others have in mind is collaboration with the “good” Zionists on a broad political basis, otherwise they wouldn’t be forever watchful that the “good” and “bad” Zionists “should not be thrown in one pot (God forbid),” and that the honor of the “good” Zionists should not be slighted. Such is their position at a time when Zionism as a whole, as a political trend, is engaged in an unworthy fight with unworthy means, against the progressive Jewish ranks and the Soviet Union. . . Those who are for progress and social justice can find nothing acceptable in the ideology of Zionism, which is against the people, against progress, and anti-Soviet.
Of course it is a good thing for the American Zionist rabbi, Arthur Lelyveld, to whom the Morning Freiheit leaders constantly allude, to join the struggle against the war in Vietnam. This, however, cannot, and must not lead to ideological co-existence with Zionism, as was pointed out by an MF reader, Hershel, from Miami Beach, in a letter to the editor (February 24, 1971). He stated:
As far as I am concerned all Zionists are ideologically the same. They are all adversaries of socialism. I remember that in the years 1904-05 we had to fight Zionists because they were the enemies of the Jewish workers, they opposed the class struggle against the Jewish bosses....
To summarize, the leaders of the Morning Freiheit say that they have adopted a platform of collaboration with certain shades of Zionism. That is what they say, but we believe that on the fundamental question which has a bearing on the present political situation –on the evaluation of the character of the Israeli-Arab war – the Morning Freiheit has taken an unequivocal Zionist position, in complete conformity with the Zionist line adhered to by the Sneh-Mikunis group in Israel. (Incidentally, this is the reason why the Morning Freiheit proclaims this renegade group as the “Communist Party of Israel.”). . .
It is interesting to note that in the polemic with Undser Freint, the editors of the Morning Freiheit began to feel that their position on the character of the six-day war is a slippery one, to put it mildly. They therefore proposed that this question, as well as the Czechoslovak question, “should be put aside.” The response of the editor of Undser Freint to this was: “Why should it be necessary to put aside the question of the character of the six-day war? A correct evaluation of this question will enable the Jewish masses better to understand the dangerous political line that the Dayans and Begins are preaching. . .”
There are other questions with regard to the present situation in the Morning Freiheit on which we will comment at a future date, if we will find it necessary to do so. In April of this year the MF will celebrate its 50th anniversary. The heart of every progressive Jewish leader grieves at the ideological degredation that now permeates a newspaper which was so beloved by the Jewish masses of the United States and other countries. There is, however, reason to believe that the Morning Freiheit will find the strength to overcome this difficult period and will again take the position of a crusading organ of the progressive Jewish community in the United States.
Translated by PH