"I had gone to see Ephraim Sneh, a white-haired veteran Labour Party politician. He points to a picture on the back wall of his office. It is of 2 Israeli F-15 fighters flying over Auschwitz. 'When we didn't have F-15s, we had Auschwitz,' he says." (Deep inside the plucky country, Greg Sheridan, The Australian, 19/1/08)
One of the greatest myths of our time is that, in the words of former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, "the establishment of the state of Israel begins with the unimaginable tragedy of the Holocaust."*
The myth that Israel was born of the Holocaust, a product of Israel's 24/7 propaganda mill, is trotted out again and again to justify robbing the Palestinian people of their homeland and to silence critics of Israel's crimes in Palestine. The simple fact of the matter is that the Zionist movement and its implantation and entrenchment in Palestine predated the Holocaust by decades and was an entirely separate phenomenon from the campaign of ethnic cleansing unleashed by the Nazis against European Jewry.
Whatever Jews qua Jews felt about the fate of their co-religionists in central and eastern Europe in the 30s and 40s, the issue was far from a major concern of the Zionist leadership in London or the Yishuv.
This particular truth struck home as I was reading Baffy: The Diaries of Blanche Dugdale, 1936-1947 (1973). Blanche - Baffy - was the niece of Lord Balfour and the most devoted of gentile Zionists. So much so that she became one of the members of Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann's London Political Committee, even chairing it at one stage. To describe Baffy as obsessed by the Zionist project and smitten by Weizmann would be a gross understatement. (Those irresistable Zionist pheromones again!) As a key insider and Weizmann confidant, her testimony in regard to this matter deserves to be taken seriously.
The following references are listed in chronological order:
Despite Hitler's persecution of German Jewry beginning in earnest in 1933, the first of Baffy's references was to the fate of 2 Austrian Zionists in the wake of the 1938 Austrian anschluss:
8/4/38: "Walked away with Sir Wyndham Deedes [an old friend of Chaim's], who goes to Vienna for us next week. But he will not be able to get the Zionists Stricker and Friedman out of Dachau. They helped Schuschnigg with money for the plebiscite."* (p 89) [*Kurt Schuschnigg - Federal Chancellor of Austria from July 1934 until the German occupation of Austria in March 1938 Following Hitler's ultimatum to Schuschnigg on 12 February, Schuschnigg decided to hold a plebiscite on 13 March by which the Austrian people would decide whether or not to accept Hitler's terms. This was the act which led to the German occupation of Austria.]
There is only one reference to the US-initiated Evian Conference, convened to find solutions for the German Jewish refugee problem, which was boycotted by the Zionists:
24/6/38: "[Chaim] put several ideas about Evian into [Lord Winterton's*] head - notably to tell the Germans that if they want to get rid of the Jews, they must leave them some of their own money." (p 91) [*Chief British delegate at Evian conference, July 1938.]
Presumably, Weizmann was referring to money for passage to Palestine.
11/10/38: "November 11th... Armistice Day! And the news of the pogrom in Germany, as bad or worse than I dreaded and expected." (p 115)
That pogrom was of course Kristallnacht, the Night of the Broken Glass, but all Weizmann could think about was funneling young, committed Zionist Pioneers (HeChalutz) into Palestine:
15/11/38: "[W]hen Chaim went to see the PM this afternoon... [he] demanded an immediate Children's Aliyah [immigration] of 1,500, and a large number of the trainees in Germany." (p 116)
For the Zionists, concern for refugees always came second to Zionist designs on Palestine:
2/12/38: "Then I went to lunch, and a long talk, with Mr Ruskin at the Dorchester... His activities are now two-fold. The organizing of a huge Refugee Loan, in conjunction with Wolf, a Dutch Jew new millionaire, is genuine, but a screen for the real thing... Ruskin has arranged for a force of 15 planes - the training of pilots - mostly near his home in Chicago - and other things against The Day." (p 117)
Perhaps the most damning reference is this:
12/12/38: "After lunch to Zionist Office where Chaim reported to us his interview with [Colonial Secretary] Malcolm [MacDonald] this morning. It seems to have been lively! Malcolm offered to take the [10,000 German Jewish] children here, but without a guarantee that they should go on. Chaim refused. He said to Malcolm 'We shall fight you from here to San Francisco and when I say fight I mean fight." (p 118)
Even Baffy couldn't help but object to Weizmann's tunnel vision:
1/2/39: "Also to try to make Chaim talk of the Jewish people, and not of Zionists." (p 121)
And this, according to Baffy, was Mrs Weizmann's saddest moment:
9/10/41: "[W]ent to Chaim's room for a cup of tea. Poor Vera terribly sad, the Germans are approaching her home town [of Rostov]." (p 188)
How should we interpret the word 'heavily' here?:
18/12/41: "Chaim spoke heavily today in the Yeshiva [sitting] about the spread of anti-Semitism and the measure of Hitler's success in that sphere. He has shown the humiliations to which man can subject his fellow-men, and the civilized world keeps comparative silence. This is a terrible blow to morality." (p 189)
Here's as succinct and unambiguous a statement as you could possibly ask for of Weizmann's focus at this time:
20/1/42: "Chaim warned us that effort spent on improving the lot of the Galuth [exile/diaspora] will be more or less wasted. Palestine is the only hope and future. (p 191)
Token gestures were OK though:
28/11/42: "[R]eports received from the Polish Government about the latest atrocities against Jews in Poland. It is an extermination policy now, but what can one do? All protests must be made (Palestine is organizing days of fasts and mourning) but what can be done? One or two small things only." (p 198)
15/2/43: "Busy day at Zionist Office mostly the appeal for funds for Youth Aliyah to bring the 25,000 to Palestine (if they can be collected) out of the various Balkan countries and Hungary." (p 201)
Not every Zionist was happy with Weizmann's lack of concern. This was clear at the Zionist Conference in London in August, 1945:
1/8/45: "What I chiefly felt today was the great gulf fixed between the Europeans who have actually suffered and the Americans and British. There is great (and perhaps unreasonable) feeling that the latter have not done enough." (p 223)
I rest my case.
[*See my 14/3/08 post The Israeli Occupation of Federal Parliament 3.]