Today is the 45th anniversary of the departure of the ship Exodus from the French port of Sete on 11 July 1947, ostensibly with the mission of running the British blockade designed to stem illegal Jewish entry into mandate Palestine, but actually with the intent of pulling off one of the greatest publicity stunts in history. (See my 17/6/10 post Cannon Fodder for Zion: Exodus 1947 where I cited the assessment of Israeli historian Idith Zertal.)
One particular eye-witness testimony to that affair you're unlikely to read in most accounts is that of the remarkable Emmanuel Levyne, to my knowledge the only Exodus volunteer to both see through the whole vile charade and blow the whistle on it.
After boarding the Exodus as a volunteer, Levyne began having what he called "revelations" that any attempt to "force the gates of the Promised Land" constituted a "rebellion," not against the British, but against God. In short, as he put it, "I lost the Zionist faith," and when the British eventually returned those they'd removed from the Exodus to Port de Bouc, near Marseilles, he alone of the able-bodied volunteers disembarked, braving the threats and intimidation of the Mossad agents among them whose role it was to enforce discipline.
What follows is a rough translation from the French of part of Levyne's 1969 book Judaisme Contre Sionisme (Judaism Against Zionism), a neglected work crying out for an expert English translation:
"As for the Exodus affair, I've said that it was nothing more than an anti-British provocation - something the Zionists no longer try to hide, as they did at the time when they succeeded in mobilising world public opinion against the British and portraying them as the new Nazis.
"The newspaper Le Meridional, for example, in its issue of November 5 1967, devoted an entire page in homage to the 20th anniversary of the Exodus. Here are the words of one of the Zionist officials involved with the ship, from an interview with the journalist Maurice Sardou:
'The voyage was planned well ahead of time with the sole aim of stirring up world opinion against the British. We wanted to create a real focus of attention, so we packed the ship with 4,427 volunteers, knowing that the British would intercept it and arrest them. We wanted the British to over-react. The provocation was necessary. And sure enough, when they boarded it and transferred its passengers to British ships, there was an outcry in the international press which characterised them as 'prison ships'.
'And when these ships returned to Port de Bouc, the French authorities refused to cooperate with the disembarkation of the immigrants. The French government appealed to Jewish community leaders in France to act as interpreters. Those who wished to disembark could do so, but no force was used. The immigrants voted unanimously to remain on board. Only those who were ill were taken off. The ships remained in port de Bouc for a month, attracting the world's press. The Hotel Arbois in Marseilles was full of journalists. Finally, the immigrants were sent to a camp south of Hamburg. This had a profound impact on international opinion, the UN, and even France.
'What did the voyage of the Exodus mean to you?'
'It represented the creation of Israel.'
"This is my sin, my crime. By boarding the Exodus, despite the prophetic warnings I had received, including the last on the quay in Sete harbour, I played a part in the creation of the State of Israel, which is to say the martyrdom of the Palestinian people. And it is precisely because I am aware of my culpability that I have become an anti-Zionist mystic and will not cease in my work until the suffering of the world's most disinherited and abandoned people - thus, spiritually, the most Jewish - is ended. That is, when the colonial State of Israel no longer exists."