What Price Israel by Alfred M. Lilienthal explores the aims and actions of (political) Zionism and its consequences, particularly to Jews and the US. This book was first published in 1953.
Dr Lilienthal (b. 25 December 1915 – d. 6 October 2008) was a graduate of Cornell University and Columbia Law School. He had served in the State Department as well as in the Army during WWII.
Anyone who wants to label the author as a “racist” or an “anti-Semite” may want to re-read his name and perhaps look up the meaning of those terms, but that is another topic which, by the way, the author does address.
He appreciated the sensitivities of the subject, but nevertheless wrote this book because of the serious implications of Zionism to Jews regardless of where they lived and the world in general.
This book has been written, against the concerned counsel of many who are close and dear to me, because I feel I owe a duty to my country above any duty I owe to my family and friends. … My determination to complete this book was strengthened by the knowledge that no American Christian could, nor any Jew would, write it.
Lilienthal writes with authority: he is knowledgeable and there is sincerity tempered by commonsense—one can sense his passion given the occasional biting tone regarding certain (political) decisions and their consequent injustices, but this is mostly subtle for he typically lays out some facts and his arguments are rational and unbiased.
The main text at approximately 250 pages in 14 chapters is relatively short. There are notes (and citations) as well as an index at the end. One can simplistically consider this to be the precursor and a shorter version of the author’s magnum opus The Zionist Connection published in 1978 (and its revised and updated The Zionist Connection II published in 1982), a text that is approximately 800 pages in length with over 50 pages of notes and citations.
Below are some key points and paragraphs, not intended as a summary but merely to provide a sample.
The author begins with a brief review of some Old Testament history, highlighting the meaning of the word “Jew” and the distinction of “nation versus faith”, that that so-called Zionism has transformed “religious hopes and a yearning for individual freedom into a political program of nationalist utopia”.
The first presentation of Zionism was given by Moses Hess in his book Rome and Jerusalem (1862). The next philosopher of Zionism was Leo Pinsker who, twenty years later, wrote in his Auto-Emancipation that the Jews formed, in the midst of the nations among whom they reside, a distinctive element which cannot be readily digested by any country. (Strangely, these were practically the same words for which the Dearborn Independent and Henry Ford, Sr. were to be sued more than sixty years later, by American Jews of Zionist leanings.) Pinsker’s goal was a “land of our own,” though not necessarily the Holy Land. Under his leadership, a first Jewish National Conference met in 1884 at Katowice in Silesia—thirteen years before Theodor Herzl invoked the First Zionist Congress at Basel in Switzerland.
Of course, not all Jews agreed with Zionism, foreseeing the dangerous implications of the deliberate confusion of the meaning of Jew, since if Israel is a so-called Jewish state, then there is the question of how Jews who are citizens of other countries are to be viewed: “…after Herzl’s Zionism had begun to fascinate Europe, the Central Conference of American Rabbis passed a resolution which stated disapproval of any attempt to establish a Jewish State.”
The author then briefly discusses some of the intrigue surrounding the Balfour Declaration. For example, the declaration’s wording was argued to “a national home” in Palestine as opposed to “the”. Either way, it cannot be interpreted to mean statehood but this sentiment was obviously promoted.
For the British, it was a convenient measure of security for the Suez Canal. As for the non-Jewish communities, such as Arabs, they were understandably concerned if some sort of Jewish homeland was formed in Palestine. Although the Balfour Declaration did not grant a blank check to the Zionists, there were other political moves that not all parties were aware of at the time. In the US in particular, the Arab population is relatively small and the Zionists were much more effective in managing their propaganda to gain the support of American politicians.
Perhaps the most shocking and damning behavior of the Zionists was their reaction to the efforts of individuals such as attorney Morris Ernst to organize the immigration of displaced Jews from Europe to the US and UK. These efforts were not well received since in the eyes of the Zionists they undermined the efforts to move them to Palestine.
Two chapters (III and IV) are dedicated to the partition of the Holy Land and the formation of Israel. The author reviews the results of UN committees. Rejecting USSR’s suggestion of having the Big Five heading the UNSCOP, “the Committee was constituted of eleven smaller nations (Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, India, Iran, Netherlands, Peru, Sweden, Uruguay and Yugoslavia), with Justice Emil Sandström of Sweden as chairman.”
Although not members of the committee were in agreement, there was immense pressure from pro-Zionists.
The Zionist apathy toward the Stratton Displaced Persons Bill, and Zionist opposition to the negotiations of the Freeland Organization for the transfer of 30,000 Jewish refugees to Netherlands Guiana, in South America, had illuminated the real motivation of Zionist leadership. But the alliance of American- and Soviet-dominated delegations acted as if they were supporting Zionism for “humanitarian” reasons.
The author does not neglect to mention the maneuvering of Soviet pro-Zionism which was…
…stressed in reports sent home by U.S. diplomatic representatives in the field, but their warnings remained completely ignored in Washington.
Soviet Russia had pressed the United Nations for the earliest possible withdrawal of the Mandatory Power, and for obvious reasons: the earlier the evacuation, the sooner the collapse of law and authority; and the greater the chaos in the interim period between the two administrations, the better the chances for Communist scheming in the area. January 1, 1948, was the date advanced by the Soviet Union for British departure but she was finally satisfied with May 15.
Regarding the UN, keeping in mind the text was first published in 1953, the author concludes that…
[t]he General Assembly turned down the only two reasonable suggestions—a referendum in Palestine and submission of the legal problems to the International Court of Justice. The Displaced Persons Problem was handled with outrageous thoughtlessness. For persons displaced by World War II, whatever their faith, were surely a responsibility of international welfare organizations—not pawns in a whimsical power play of Jewish nationalists.
The United Nations tied the establishment of Jewish and Arab States to the acceptance of an economic union and the internationalization of Jerusalem. But six years after the fateful decision, there is no Arab Palestinian State; there is no economic union; there is no internationalized city of Jerusalem; there are no boundaries; there is no peace and stability in the Holy Land.
Lilienthal then shifts his analysis to US politics, debunking the myth of the “Jewish Vote”. During that time—it seems nothing has changed—the Democrats were “for sixteen triumphant years masters in the art of exploiting minority-group consciousness…” Despite that, however, in 1948…
…of the twenty-odd million votes cast in the five largest states where “the Jewish Vote” is claimed to center, only 150,000 votes (three fourths of one per cent!) separated the two parties. What did this prove about the “Jewish Vote”? Obviously, if it existed, it would have much more weightily supported an Administration which had so well served, in deed and word, Jewish nationalism. Yet despite all the favors they had done for Zionism, the Democrats carried, of the four pivotal states, only Illinois and California, and lost the larger electoral votes of Pennsylvania and New York. Nor was Rabbi Silver able to deliver Ohio, the fifth state, to the G.O.P. candidate he supported. In short, the election statistics disproved the myth of the “Jewish Vote” even in 1948—at the peak of Zionist hysteria.
The author dedicates a chapter to certain American Zionists’ aggressive response to any view that is anti-Zionist or perceived as such. This is typically a smear campaign, labelling the target as “anti-Semitic”, including an organization formed to help Arab refugees even though their “concern is not with how or why the Arab refugees came into being”. Approximately half the chapter is about the author’s own experience of the response to his article “Israel’s Flag is Not Mine” that was first published in Reader’s Digest in 1949.
Of course, not all Zionists insisted on Palestine to be the location of their homeland. Not surprisingly, this view was not tolerated.
Probably the best known of these was Israel Zangwill who broke with the Zionist World Organization when it rejected, in 1904, all colonizing activities outside of Palestine, the Uganda offer in particular. Zangwill and his followers formed the Jewish Territorial Organization “for those Jews who cannot and will not remain in the land in which they live at present.” This organization was disbanded after the British had granted the Balfour Declaration.
But for Weizmann, and the Eastern European Zionists, it was Palestine or nothing. Their concept of nation was one of fated racialism: to them, what made a person a Jew was not his practice of the Judaistic faith (many of them being, in point of fact, unabashed atheists) ; suffice he was born “a Jew”—and once a Jew, always a Jew. Underlying that concept was a deep despair, a cult of exclusivity combined with a sense of doom. Its central tenets were the axiomatic conviction that anti-Semitism can not be erased from this earth, and the equally axiomatic assumption that Jews cannot live a normal life outside Israel.
The author briefly goes through the money spent on propaganda, including the “education” of the younger generation, that promoted the idea of Israel. Part of it was for fundraising and part of it to encourage or even pressure immigration.
Worked out after consultations with the former Advisers on Jewish Affairs to the U.S. High Commissioner, Judges Simon Rifkind and Louis Levinthal and Rabbi Philip Bernstein, the Klausner report submitted this pertinent observation: “I am convinced that the people must be forced to go to Palestine. … By ‘force’ I suggest a program. It is not a new program. It was used before, and most recently. It was used in the evacuation of the Jews from Poland and in the story of the ‘Exodus.’”
“The first step in such a program,” the Klausner report went on, “is the adoption of the principle that it is the conviction of the world Jewish community that these people must go to Palestine. The second step is the transmittal of that policy to the Displaced Persons. The third step is for the world Jewish community to offer the people the opportunity to go to Palestine. By opportunity, it is to be understood that any means put at the disposal of the people is to be considered an adequate opportunity. Those who are not interested are no longer to be wards of the Jewish community to be maintained in camps, fed and clothed without their having to make any contribution to their own subsistence. To effect this program, it becomes necessary for the Jewish community at large to reverse its policy and instead of creating comforts for the Displaced Persons to make them as uncomfortable as possible…”
For those who are interested in the “racial” question, Chapter XII: “The Racial Myth” is probably the most fascinating of the book. It would arguably be better if this chapter is placed earlier. The author asserts that “Semite” is a linguistic rather than racial term. In any case, it contains multiple groups of people, including some Arabs.
Whilst some Zionists imply there is unity, including racial unity amongst all so-called Jews, this was not the case even in the ancient world due to intermarriages and conversions. This continued after the time of Christ. For example:
Perhaps the most significant mass conversion to the Judaic faith occurred in Europe, in the 8th century A.D., and that story of the Khazars (Turko-Finnish people) is quite pertinent to the establishment of the modern State of Israel.
Many Zionists and early Israeli politicians were from Russia or Ukraine. As for the author’s own observations of modern Israel:
On my first visit to Jerusalem in 1944, I was struck by the overwhelming visual proof that ridicules Jewish racialism. At a glance, I could distinguish the Ashkenazim of Poland from the Sephardic Jews of the Iberian Peninsula or North Africa, the Yemenite Jews, the German Jews—all different, not only in anthropological features, but also in dress, language, manners and mental attitudes.
In other words, “Semite” or Jew as a racial term is practically useless since “in anthropological fact, many Christians may have much more Hebrew-Israelite blood in their veins than most of their Jewish neighbors”.
The author does not fail to mention so-called racism within Israel. For example:
In November 1951, a group of 130 Indian Jews expressed the desire to be repatriated to India. In Israel, they claimed, they were being forced to do the lowest kind of labor, were called “black” by the rest of the populace. They even insisted they were permitted only black bread. Speaking for this group of Indians, Isaac Joseph, an insurance salesman, said: “In India there is no discrimination. In Israel we are Easterners and apparently inferior.”
Lilienthal concludes that the problems Zionism has caused must be addressed by, amongst other things, clarifying terminology so as not to confuse and to prevent divided loyalties.
Jewry will also have to insist on somewhat tidier semantics in America—on a clear distinction between Israelis, Zionists and Jews. … And the U.S. press had better clean up the sloppy language of the headlines.
As for the refugee problem the formation of Israel caused:
No nation has ever been under a greater moral obligation to alleviate the plight of refugees than the State of Israel. Not only did Israel’s political acts create that plight for the Arabs of Palestine, but the international rationale for the very existence of Israel was the world’s desire to save refugees. Who, then, if not Israel must fully honor the right of displaced persons to return home in peace?
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