Stephen Sachur throws every cliché (‘Israel the only
democracy in the Middle East’) at Israel’s foremost historian of the 1948
expulsion of the Palestinians, Ilan Pappe. Sachur’s argument that Pappe’s
family, which obtained refuge in Palestine after fleeing Nazi Germany demonstrates
the necessity of Zionism, was not only cheap but historically illiterate.
The Zionist movement, personified by Israel’s
first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, vehemently opposed ‘refugeeism’ i.e.
the rescue of Jews to any place but Palestine. In Palestine, the British, who
had favoured the Zionist movement without question up to and including the Arab
revolt of 1936-9, realised that with war against Germany looming they could not
continue to allow the uncontrolled immigration of Zionist settlers. Instead
they set an annual limit of 15,000 for 1939 and the next 5 years.
The Zionist policy on ‘refugeeism’ meant that in all of the Western
countries, the Zionist movement opposed
the entry of Jewish refugees and opposed
the lowering of the immigration barriers. It was summed up in a shocking quote
by Ben-Gurion when he stated that:
I knew that it was possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing
them over to England, but only half of them by transporting them to Palestine,
then I would opt for the second alternative. For we must weigh not only the
life of these children – but also the history of People of Israel.’
This quote is to be found in numerous
books, not least the authorised biography of Ben-Gurion by Shabtai Teveth (‘The Burning Ground: 1886-1948, p.855). Teveth who is more a hagiographer than a biographer was
visibly shocked by the evidence of Ben-Gurion’s indifference to the holocaust. An
attitude reflected in the entire Jewish Agency Executive.
In a chapter on Ben-Gurion and the holocaust,
headed ‘Disaster Means Strength’ i.e. the European catastrophe of extermination
of European Jewry meant the increase in
strength of the Zionist movement, Teveth wrote that:
‘If there was a line in Ben-Gurion’s mind between the beneficial disaster and an all-destroying catastrophe, it must have been a very fine one.’
Not only did the Zionist movement
oppose ‘refugeeism’ but they tried to persuade the Gestapo, which was
responsible for implementing the anti-Semitic policies of the Nazi regime, to
ensure that German refugees only went to Palestine. So well did the Zionists
and the Nazis get on that Heydrich, head of the Nazi and State Police (RSHA) [the
‘“real engineer of the final solution” according to Gerald Reitlinger in his
magnificent opus The Final Solution] who was assassinated by the Czech
partisans in 1942, gave orders for the suppression of the activities of the
non-Zionists (the vast majority of German Jews) and to give assistance to the Zionists.
According to Francis Nicosia, an academic apologist for Zionist-Nazi collaboration,
The Gestapo “did everything in those days
to promote emigration, particularly to Palestine.” The Third Reich and the Palestine
It is not an
area where Ilan Pappe is a specialist and there is no reason why he should know, but the record of the Zionist
movement’s collaboration with the Nazis was partly detailed in the 1953-8 Kasztner
trial in Israel when survivors of the holocaust accused the leadership of Hungarian
Zionism of having betrayed them. The verdict that Kasztner, a senior official
in Mapai (Labour) had collaborated with the Nazis led to the fall of Israel’s
second Prime Minister, Moshe Sharrett.