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The Einstein Letter at 65

By       Message Stanley Heller     Permalink
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View Ratings | Rate It Headlined to H4 12/5/13

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On Dec. 4, 1948 Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt and 26 others had a letter published in the New York Times warning about the then new "Herut" Party in Israel that was beginning a major fund raising drive in the United States.  Herut has since morphed into the Likud, which runs the government now and has been the dominant party in Israel for over 35 years.

Einstein 1921
(image by Wikicommons)

The letter pulled no punches.   It described the party as "a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist  parties."  Realize this was just 3 years after World War II and you see the power of the accusation.  It explains that the party was based on the former "Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine."  It warned Americans to avoid the tour of party leader Menachem Begin (and later Israeli prime minister) so as not to support "Fascism" in Israel.  The letter writers warned that the party pretended to stand for freedom and democracy, but "until recently they openly preached the doctrine of the Fascist state."  The letter explained that the party in its actions was "terrorist" and related its part in the massacre of hundreds that spring in Deir Yassin and its beatings and shooting of Jews in Palestine that stood in its way.

The letter writers had a warning for labor leaders.   "Like other Fascist parties they have been used to break strikes, and have themselves pressed for the destruction of free trade unions."

It concluded by explaining that the signers felt they had to send the letter because "the top leadership of American Zionism has refused to campaign against Begin's efforts, or even to expose to its own constituents the dangers to Israel from support to Begin."

While very progressive on the whole the letter is not above criticism.   In criticizing the followers of Herut the letter says, "They have reclaimed no land, built no settlements, and only detracted from the Jewish defense activity."   We know full well now about the settlements built by the Zionist "Left" generally built on land taken from Palestinians and almost universally restricted to "Jews only".  

Ten years ago I interviewed Columbia professor and social critic Seymour Melman(pp. 5-7) who then was one of the last surviving signers of the letter.  He said the letter was largely composed by Zelig S. Harris and members of a group of Zionists that supported a "bi-nationalist" country. (At the time it was also called anti-state Zionism.) Einstein was friendly to the group.

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I asked Melman about the effect of the letter. He said it "torpedoed much of their PR activity" and led to the cancellation by a major speaker at the Carnegie Hall event, John F. Kennedy.  

When asked to talk about the Likud, the successor to the Herut, Melman said it had the "unmistakable stamp of a fascist party".  He said, "Israel is not fascist, but the Likud is fascist."

Certainly Israel is not fascist in the old mold with one dictator ruling for life.  It's closer to the apartheid model of South Africa with the privileged "race" being allowed to vote for a multi-party parliament.  Yet to the victims the racism and violence of modern Zionism the distinctions are hardly important

Some of the newest outrages

Five teenagers face charges of attempted murder for throwing stones at cars and could be imprisoned for life

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Israeli forces swept into the home of Muhammad al-Majid seeking to arrest him.  The youth is four years old.  In the same article on the Electronic Intifada it was noted that Muslim Odeh had been arrested 10 times and physically abused by Israeli occupation forces.  Odeh is 12 years old.

The Israelis and the Egyptian regime have been smashing up the tunnels from Egypt that have provided the Gaza Strip with fuel.  The result is the only power plant on the Strip has closed.  The sewage plant closed and in some areas raw sewage water has leaked into streets and paths.  Recently the lack of fuel has caused all the garbage trucks in the Strip to stop running.   A Gaza school teacher said, "Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of rubbish now litter Gaza's streets,"

On November 28 Nour Afaneh , suffering from pneumonia, died in an ambulance on her way to a hospital in Ramallah.  The ambulance had tried to get through the "Container" checkpoint near Bethlehem, but found it closed.. She was 14 years old.    Israel has several hundred permanent and temporary checkpoints separating one part of Palestinian populated areas from another part of Palestinian area.

There were race riots against black Africans in Tel Aviv in May 2012.  As a result Israel has built a new wall along its Egyptian border to keep out all Africans seeking asylum.  As a result the number of Africans making it into Israel in the start of 2013   has declined 99%  over the number in the same part of 2012.   As of July 1,000 Eritreans were being kept in a detention center in a desert and are being sent back to Eritrea.

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Stanley Heller writes about the Middle East at He writes about the economy, teaching, politics and labor at

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