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
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
"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."