(Anti-Zionism) Foroys Blog (Old School Jewish Socialism)


An anti-Zionist friend recommended a post at this blogsite and I am recommending it, the Foroys Blog, to anyone and everyone, but especially to my comrades in modern Jewish Studies. The Foroys combines the memory of old school Jewish socialism and Jewish thought and culture, Yiddish in English translation. You can check out the blog here. Of particular note is this uncompromising anti-Zionist polemic by leader of the Jewish Labor Bund Henryk Erlich. He wrote this in 1938 as an open letter against the great historian Simon Dubnow, who by that time had gone soft on Zionism in the wake of Hitler’s rise. You can read here the first part which includes links to parts 2 and 3. The original Yiddish sits side by side with its translation into English. Of particular interest in the letter by Erlich are appeals to Jewish peoplehood (klal Yisroel) and internecine political conflict.

As part of the nutshell, Erlich asks,

“So what are the main arguments that we have used against Zionism, throughout the decades of the Bund’s existence? We have said that Zionism is not and cannot be the solution to the Jewish question; that by sowing the illusion that Zionism is the answer among the Jewish masses, Zionism diverts their attention and energy away from the goals of their own struggle; and that due to its disdaining attitude towards galuth and contempt towards the Yiddish language, it is a stumbling stone that stands in the way of the development of Jewish culture.”

And then states this:

Over the years, Zionism has transmogrified itself into being in an open alliance with our blood-enemy – anti-Semitism. Zionism has practically always derived its inspiration from the persecutions endured by Jewish people, from political reactionism above all. Throughout the 40 years of Zionism’s existence, the following rule has practically always held: the darker the world, the brighter it gets in the Zionist tent; the worse for Jews, the better for Zionists.”

About democracy in Jewish Palestine, in a second article, Erlich wrote,

What can a Jewish Palestine be in the best case scenario? A small kingdom of a tiny Hebraist tribe within the Jewish people. When Zionists speak to the non-Jewish world, they are outstanding democrats, and they present the conditions in today’s and future Palestine as exemplary of liberty and progress. But if a Jewish state is to be founded in Palestine, its spiritual climate will be: an eternal fear of the external enemy (Arabs), unending fighting for every little piece of land, for every scrap of work, against the internal enemy (Arabs), and a tireless struggle for the eradication of the language and culture of the non-Hebraized Jews of Palestine. Is this the kind of climate, in which freedom, democracy, and progress can flourish? Is this not the climate, in which reactionism and chauvinism typically germinate? Today, even truly Zionist publicists, upon visiting the Holy Land, admit that clericalism has excessive influence there, despite Zionist manual workers playing such a distinguished role in the Zionist organization.”

But then there’s this concession:

“Oh, certainly: if the future of humanity should indeed belong to Fascism, then the historical perspective painted by Zionism will be proven correct, and then what awaits us in galuth is really only death and annihilation. But then, death and annihilation will be the fate of tens of millions, maybe hundreds of millions of others aside from us; then death and annihilation would be the fate of the entire human civilization and culture. Would Zionism be able to save us alone from the fascist deluge? It is ridiculous to even think about it! But if so, their only “historical achievement” will remain their “theoretical” justification of anti-Semitism. “

The rest is history. The Bund was, of course, decimated during the war along with the rest of Polish Jewry. Erlich was executed by Stalin in 1942.


About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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