Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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12 Adar 5761 - March 7, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Shulamit Aloni: "We were taught to see Diaspora Jews as Human Dust"

by S. Yisraeli

In cutting remarks about Diaspora rejection ingrained in Zionist education, Shulamit Aloni, a member of the generation that grew up on these values, wrote last week about "nationalist education," which has left its mark in a variety of areas.

Aloni's comments appeared in Ha'aretz as part of a review of an article from the journal, 2000, published by Am Oved. The article was a full-length analysis of the Kastner Trial, which dealt with the Holocaust in Hungary and whether Yisroel Kastner, who headed the Committee to Save Hungarian Jewry, collaborated with the Nazis.

The facts reconstructed from public memory reveal that the judge in the lower court, Dr. Binyomin Halevy, found Kastner guilty of "selling his soul to the devil," that Kastner was murdered and that the High Court ruled in his favor and acquitted him of charges that he collaborated with the Nazis. The article, written by Michal Shaked, addresses the fact that according to collective memory, the ruling by District Court President Dr. Binyomin Halevy was "bad," while the Supreme Court ruling, as it appears in the decision written by Justice Agranat, was "good" and cleared the defendant. Michal Shaked examines whether these memories accurately reflect the reality.

Her conclusion, quotes Aloni, is that it was in fact Agranat who was hostage to the classical Zionist motif of "Diaspora rejection." Agranat perceived Diaspora Jewry, for whom annihilation had been decreed, as "human dust," and he saw Zionism as the only solution to the problem facing the Jewish people. It was based on this Zionist stance that he made his ruling in the trial. It was due to Agranat's low opionion of galut Jewry that was not Zionist that he could not find Kastner guilty of any crime in not telling them of the threat.

Agranat was not the only one who subscribed to this notion. The classical Zionist motif of "Diaspora rejection" also made its way into the decision written by Justice Cheshin: "Bereavement and loss, helplessness and infirmity, a great assemblage which is unable to stand up on its own two feet. A remote island in a passive-aggressive sea is how Kastner saw Hungarian Jewry during the War . . . What good would it do to berate and warn people? It was of such cases that the poet of fury said, `Can one arouse the dead?'"

Standing against this tide, Binyomin Halevy gave expression to what was then an uncommon position. He rejected the claims of the total powerlessness of Holocaust Jews. He maintained that if they had known the Nazis were about to send them to Auschwitz, they would have found a way to save themselves.

Shulamit Aloni writes, "I do not want to get involved in a debate waged among historians, but as someone who spent the war years at Ben Shemen Youth Village as a member of the Youth Movement, and having studied among the cream of the crop of the Hebrew-Zionist educational system, I have to admit, based on firsthand knowledge that is crystal clear to me, that Yosef Grodzensky is indeed right that everyone was sunk in extreme "Palestinocentrism" and held Diaspora Jews in Eastern Europe in contempt. We were raised on `Diaspora rejection.'

"We were taught to see Diaspora Jews as human dust, the paupers of Mendele Mocher Seforim, the wretched souls from the `City of Death,' while here we are the `new Jews,' the salt of the earth, a symbol of independence and heroism. We also learned to despise Yiddish, the language spoken by 11 million Jews before the war."

In conclusion she writes, "All this was thrown at us from the upper ranks. In my opinion, the vestiges of hatred toward non-Zionists remain to this day."

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