The Holocaust Historiography Project

Book reviews

Jews on Judaism

  • Memoirs of An Anti-Zionist Jew, Rabbi Elmer Berger, Institute for Palestine Studies, 160pp, paperback, $5.00 from IHR. ISBN: 0-911038-87-6
  • The Decadence Of Judaism In Our Time, Moshe Menuhin, Institute for Palestine Studies, 590pp, hardback, $13.00 from IHR. ISBN: 0-91 1038-88-4.

It is a sad commentary on the extent of control the media moguls have over us that very few people can even conceptualize the notion of an anti-Zionist Jew. Yet these two authors have been pumping away for these past 30 years, trying to enlighten not just their fellow Jews, but also the world at large, that Judaism does not equal Zionism. There have been very few like them. There was of course William Zukerman’s Jewish Newsletter which did so much to expose corruption in Jewish and Zionist life, such as the kosher food tax racket, where ordinary consumers pay a levy on their groceries to keep unscrupulous rabbis and Zionists in pocket. Today we have the dedicated and persevering Alfred M. Lilienthal, with his magnum opus The Zionist Connection ($21 from IHR), a book which every American must read. And there is also the religious opposition to Zionism among orthodox Chassidic Jews, based mostly in New York, who regard Israel as a blasphemy.

But these two authors have undoubtedly kept the torch burning, when many other anti-Zionist Jews preferred to keep mum, lest they suffer the economic and social consequences.

Berger has been anti-Zionist all his life, and prior to the establishment of the Israel entity, he regarded Zionism as an anomaly. During WWII he quickly realized how the Zionists in the United States were using the phenomenon of Nazism in Europe as a ploy to insist on the establishment of an Israel. And, when the Israel colony was finally established, he soon saw what a totalitarian regime it was, totally contrary to the philosophy of both Reform Judaism, and of American democracy. As a rabbi, he feared for the integrity of his religion, debased as it was by being artificially wedded to a brutal and authoritarian nationalist regime.

His book describes his adventures and campaigns from his first activities in 1942 through to the present day. His memoirs are an inspiring tale of tenacity and determination. He had to cope with “supporters” who turned traitor; with economic blackmail from Zionist moneybags; with political subversion from the government; and with clumsiness from Arab friends. His campaigns took him on tours of the Middle East also, and he met with dignitaries, and spoke at political meetings.

In the end, however, the inevitable happened. Instead of meeting Berger head-on in a public debate, the Zionists preferred to subvert his organization from within. They infiltrated their own people to the top, and pulled his chairmanship of the American Council for Judaism out from under him. Berger tried to start up a new organization entitled American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism, but the attempt fizzled out. Berger was still too much a gentleman to make any real headway. He was even naive enough to offer a forum to Zionists who were critical of Israel. It was really inevitable that he should fail.

A different animal altogether is the firebrand of Los Gatos, California, Moshe Menuhin, the 87 year old father of Yehudi Menuhin the Zionist and violinist. Menuhin senior was born in Russia and raised in Palestine, but emigrated to the United States in 1913. During the 1920s he gradually realized his own disenchantment with political Zionism, and its discrediting and degenerating effect on Judaism. As a religious Jew, he was conscientiously concerned about the fate of the Palestinians, whose country the Zionists intended to rob, and in so doing, blaspheming the name of Judaism.

This book was first published in 1965 by a New York “vanity” publisher, but it became so popular that the company refused to keep it in print. Whether this was for political reasons, or because they have a commercial vested interest in ensuring that all authors subsidize their own books, is debatable. This edition is a second impression, updated by the author, and published by the Institute for Palestine Studies, which has offices in Washington DC and Beirut, Lebanon.

The book is a melange of Zionist and Jewish history, starting with Biblical times. The first part deals with the historic relationship between Jews and Arabs, and their co-existence in the Middle East. He describes the chicanery of the British government in promising Palestine to the Arabs, in return for their insurrection against the Turks, and to the Jews, in return for economic cooperation. He provides pen-portraits of many of the characters-Zionists, Arabs, and westerners-who were involved in this danse macabre.

Part Two deals with the modern-day, and describes the intimate interface between the Israeli government, and the Jewish establishment in the United States. He gives some examples of the inherent corruption of the Israeli leaders, and their political gymnastics.

Part Three is a 1969 postscript to the book, and in it he describes reactions to the first edition, and comments on events which have happened on the Zionist scene in the meantime. He gives his version of the takeover of the American Council for Judaism, and the ousting of Elmer Berger.

Menuhin’s book is intensely personal, and full of much emotion and vitriolic condemnation of his fellow Jews. However, there is also much factual information in the book, although a lot of it is of a secondary nature. Still, there are so few anti-Zionist books in existence that even a compendium of secondary information is a valuable asset, so long as it is thoroughly indexed and referenced (which this is). Through his personal and literary enthusiasm, Menuhin has inspired many others to join the crusade, not least the distinguished (Gentile) economist Norman F. Dacey who has many kind words to say about Menuhin’s book in his as-yet unpublished-manuscript The Golden Calf.

From The Journal of Historical Review, Fall 1980 (Vol. 1, No. 3), page 283.