5

In a blog published in the TLS, May 2016, Toby Lustig points out that Einstein in a letter to the New York Times, a few months after the declaration of Israeli idependence:

wrote to complain of 'one of the most disturbing phenomena of our times' - the new Israeli Freedom Party, (also a precursor to today's Likud) which he described as 'closely akin in its organisation, methods and political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties'.

Toby Lustig himself was writing in the aftermath of a political scandal where Ken Livingstone had stated that the Nazi party had supported Zionism; In his blog, he points out there is evidence that justifies such a claim, but not categorically so; the Nazi Party supported Zionism, in so far as it lead to emigration of the Jewish people out of the nations of Europe but not so far as for them to establish an independent Jewish state.

My concern is with what specifically prompted Einstein to make the complaint that he did; did he refer to this in his letter, or is it made clear in any later correspondance or articles Einstein wrote?

  • 3
    The letter itself seems easy enough to find. – sempaiscuba Jan 17 at 1:01
  • 1
    "he points out there is evidence that justifies such a claim, but not categorically so; the Nazi Party supported Zionism, in so far as it lead to emigration of the Jewish people out of the nations of Europe " I can't stand the people who make these arguments; it's exactly like saying (in the context Livingstone meant it) that the Nazi's supported the kindertransport in order to discredit it.. – Display name Jan 17 at 12:31
  • It's worth pointing out that in that same year Truman compared his opponent, Thomas Dewey, to Hitler (nytimes.com/1948/10/26/archives/…). Then as now, it means little more than "I don't like them," facts be damned. (That Einstein was a genius in physics does not, of course, give any greater weight to his opinions in other areas, although authority bias would make it seem so.) – Meir Jan 17 at 16:34
  • @Meir: The article doesn't go on his reputation as a physicist, but more on the fact he witnessed the growth was of Nazism in Germany and was instrumental in helping many of his Jewish-German colleagues (though the article does not mention this). – Mozibur Ullah Jan 17 at 17:09
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    @MoziburUllah Sometimes such experience helps a person in their work to prevent its recurrence. Other times it makes it that the person sees everything through that prism, even where inappropriate - or, to mix metaphors, to see everything as a nail because all they have is a hammer. – Meir Jan 17 at 20:40
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Copies of the letter to the New York Times, dated 2 December 1948 are easy enough to find online. It is worth noting that Einstein was not the only signatory to the letter, although his is naturally the name that commentators choose to quote.


The paragraph quoted by Lustig itself contains part of the answer to your question:

Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our times is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the "Freedom Party" (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.

  • (my emphasis)

Later in the letter, the authors are more explicit:

The public avowals of Begin's party are no guide whatever to its actual character. Today they speak of freedom, democracy and anti-imperialism, whereas until recently they openly preached the doctrine of the Fascist state. It is in its actions that the terrorist party betrays its real character; from its past actions we can judge what it may be expected to do in the future.

  • (my emphasis)

then going on to say:

The discrepancies between the bold claims now being made by Begin and his party, and their record of past performance in Palestine bear the imprint of no ordinary political party. This is the unmistakable stamp of a Fascist party for whom terrorism (against Jews, Arabs, and British alike), and misrepresentation are means, and a "Leader State" is the goal.

  • (my emphasis)

The full list of signatories to the letter were:

  • ISIDORE ABRAMOWITZ,
  • HANNAH ARENDT,
  • ABRAHAM BRICK,
  • RABBI JESSURUN CARDOZO,
  • ALBERT EINSTEIN,
  • HERMAN EISEN, M.D.,
  • HAYIM FINEMAN,
  • M. GALLEN, M.D.,
  • H.H. HARRIS,
  • ZELIG S. HARRIS,
  • SIDNEY HOOK,
  • FRED KARUSH,
  • BRURIA KAUFMAN,
  • IRMA L. LINDHEIM,
  • NACHMAN MAISEL,
  • SEYMOUR MELMAN,
  • MYER D. MENDELSON, M.D.,
  • HARRY M. OSLINSKY,
  • SAMUEL PITLICK,
  • FRITZ ROHRLICH,
  • LOUIS P. ROCKER,
  • RUTH SAGIS,
  • ITZHAK SANKOWSKY,
  • I.J. SHOENBERG,
  • SAMUEL SHUMAN,
  • M. SINGER,
  • IRMA WOLFE,
  • STEFAN WOLFE.

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