Muslim Press has conducted an interview with Lenni Brenner, author of ‘Zionism In The Age Of The Dictators’, to discuss the Zionist regime and its influence over the world, and also the relationship between the Nazis and the Zionists.

(Click here to read the second part of this interview)

The following is the first part of this interview:

Muslim Press: How do you see American people’s support for Israel? Is there a general consensus among them to support the Zionist regime?

Lenni Brenner: My family was Orthodox but I read a history book at age seven and became an atheist. As a child I read newspaper reports re Hitler killing Jews during WWII. I was 11 years old when my parents took me to a 1948 Zionist rally a few months before Israel became a state.

Most Jews at the rally weren’t political. Hitler’s mass murder turned them into emotional nationalists. They wanted a Jewish state where Europe’s holocaust survivors would be safe from future anti-Semitism. (In American English ‘anti-Semitism’ only means anti-Jewish. ‘Anti-Arab’ is the phrase used to express hostility to Arabs.) 

Scholars estimate that 90% of America’s Jews, rich and poor, right or left-wing, supported Israel’s 1948 creation. They knew little Zionist history. They were for Israel because Britain’s 1917 Balfour Declaration declared for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, site of the biblical Hebrew kingdoms. They had no concern for the rights of Palestine’s native Arabs. 

Most Christian Americans also backed Israel’s establishment. Hitler’s war on the U.S. discredited Jew-hatred. A photo was published of the Mufti of Jerusalem’s November 28, 1941 meeting with Hitler. He offered to form an Arab Legion to fight with the Nazis against Britain and the Jews. The photo led many Christians to see the Palestinians as no better than the Nazis.

President Harry Truman’s State Department initially opposed supporting Zionism because “the Arabs have the oil.” But the Democratic Party’s chairman told Truman that rich Jews would finance the Republican candidate against him in the November 1948 election, if Truman didn’t support Israel in May. That convinced him to patronize Zionism.

Disregard for the Palestinians’ rights was reinforced after anti-Jewish riots broke out throughout the Arab world in response to Israel’s creation. Tens of thousands of non-Zionist Arab Jews fled to Israel. The photo and the riots combined to define Arabs as murderous Jew-haters and pro-Zionism became integral to the American public’s ideology for decades to come.

MP: What made you eager to become an activist who has been in the forefront of criticizing Zionism?

Lenni Brenner: The photo and the riots made me very suspicious of Palestinian nationalism but I never became a Zionist. Nazism discredited U.S. anti-Semitism and I never encountered it in my teens, so there was nothing to push me towards Israel. As an atheist, I wasn’t pulled there when Prime Minister Ben-Gurion made Orthodox Judaism the state religion. 

In 1952, at 15, I joined the Socialist Party of America, but in the short time I was in the party it never discussed Israel. Later I joined Trotskyist youth groups. Again, we didn’t focus on Israel. Our priorities were building the Black civil rights movement and then organizing anti-Vietnam war demonstrations. 

In the early 1970s, I noticed the new Encyclopedia Judaica in a public library. By chance, I read its article about Ha Avara (The Transfer), a 1933 Nazi-Zionist trade agreement I had never heard of. Shocked at the pact, I read more, beyond the Encylopedia, about Zionist-Nazi relations and became an anti-Zionist scholar.

Hitler came to power at the height of the world-wide Depression. He had to convince Germany’s capitalists that he could get its economy moving. His anti-Semitism created exporting problems. Jews were major merchants in the U.S. and Eastern Europe. The capitalists were concerned that they might have to replace Hitler if they suffered losses because the Jews and his other foreign foes efficiently boycotted German exports. 

The Depression severely affected Jewish donations to the World Zionist Organization. If funds weren’t forthcoming Zionism’s portion of Palestine’s economy would collapse. Hitler wanted all Jews out of Germany, the World Zionist Organization wanted them in Palestine and it used Nazism to get some with wealth to go there. 

Germany had a flight tax on capital leaving the country. In 1933 the WZO convinced Berlin not to impose the tax on emigres to Palestine if they bought goods in Germany which would be sold in Palestine and the Middle East. Ha Avara was the least expensive way of shipping Jewish wealth out of Germany.

Britain’s Palestine Mandatory regime set annual Jewish immigrant quotas. The country’s weak economic absorptive capacity meant small limits, but capitalist emigres investing £1,000 ($5,000) of the cash they got from the sales in Palestine were allowed in over quota. 

The Nazis got the WZO to disrupt efforts to organize a world-wide boycott of German exports. Jerusalem’s German Consul saw using Ha Avara as the best way “to wage a successful campaign against the Jewish boycott of Germany.” A Gestapo agent in Palestine wrote about how a “London Boycott Conference was torpedoed from Tel Aviv because the head of the Transfer in Palestine… sent cables to London…. It is advisable to damage the political and economic strength of Jewry by sowing dissension in its ranks.” 

MP: The former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has said that “Adolf Hitler was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews”. He was suspended from Labour Party membership for “bringing the party into disrepute”. But he defended his claims by reference to your book, “Zionism in the Age of the Dictators”. Could you speak on this?

Lenni Brenner: As I learned more re Zionist-Nazi relations I decided to write a book on the topic. I sent an outline to several ‘progressive’ American publishers. They wouldn’t go for it. They felt that there was no U.S. market for anti-Zionist books. But one day I read two books, one pro, the other anti-Zionist, both by a British publisher, Croom Helm. I sent them the outline. They replied: “We’ve heard some things about your topic. Come here and we’ll discuss your proposal.” 

Croom Helm published Zionism In The Age Of The Dictators in 1983. Some leftists started organizing a speaking tour for me. I was told that it would take time to organize the lectures and I went to Israel before going to Britain for the book promo junket. 

I was in Israel when Yitzhak Shamir became Prime Minister. As he was one of the most pro-Hitler Zionists, I had brought along a document incriminating him, in German and English, to show to Brits. I got the text published in an English-language Palestinian journal.

In the 1930s, Shamir had been a member of the Revisionist Zionists, the forerunner of Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party. They opposed the WZO’s Ha Avara deal. Instead they wanted Fascist Italy to replace Britain as Palestine’s Mandatory ruler. Young Revisionists were sent for training at Mussolini’s naval academy. 

In spite of their Italian orientation, Revisionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky insisted that he wasn’t a Fascist. He supported Britain against Germany in 1939, but many of his followers were avowed Fascists. When Mussolini united with Hitler against London in 1940, many Fascists, including Shamir, quit Revisionism and joined a new military organization led by Avraham Stern against Britain. 

Stern’s puny forces couldn’t defeat Britain, so he looked to its enemies for support. He sent an agent to Beirut, controlled by pro-Nazi Vichy, to negotiate with the Germans. After the war Stern’s “Proposal of the National Military Organization (Irgun Zvai Leumi) Concerning the Solution of the Jewish Question in Europe and the Participation of the NMO in the War on the side of Germany.” was found in Germany’s embassy in Turkey.

The Proposal, dated January 11, 1941, told the Nazis that:

“The evacuation of the Jewish masses from Europe is a precondition for solving the Jewish question; but this can only be made possible and complete through the settlement of these masses in the home of the Jewish people, Palestine, and through the establishment of a Jewish state in its historical boundaries …. 

The NMO… is of the opinion that:

1. Common interests could exist between the establishment of a New Order in Europe in conformity with the German concept, and the true national aspirations of the Jewish people as they are embodied by the NMO…. 

Proceeding from these considerations, the NMO in Palestine, under the condition the above-mentioned national aspirations of the Israeli freedom movement are recognized on the side of the German Reich, offers to actively take part in the war on Germany’s side.”

There was no German follow-up to these propositions. In December 1941 Stern sent another agent to contact the Nazis in Turkey, but he was arrested en route. 

I had published Stern’s Proposal in Israel hoping it would generate discussion there re Zionist-Nazi relations, but nothing happened and I flew to London on October 21. I bought The Times to read on the London Underground trip to the tour organizers and found an article, “Holocaust Relived: Shamir Defends Terrorism”:

“Mr. Shamir…denied that he had any part in the efforts by Mr. Abraham Stern, the original commander of Lehi (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel) to establish contact with the Nazis and Italian Fascists. ‘There was a plan to turn to Italy for help and to make contact with Germany on the assumption that these could bring about a massive Jewish immigration to Palestine. I opposed this,’ he told the Tel Aviv newspaper Yediot Ahranot, ‘but I did join Lehi after the idea of contacts with the Axis countries was dropped.’”

I raced to The Times, showed an editor the German and English Proposal texts and explained that Israel’s Prime Minister had lied. “Well you sure didn’t make this up in German! Write us a letter.” 

The November 4 Times ran “Mr. Shamir and Lehi”: 

“Away from my files, I cannot be certain exactly when in 1940 Shamir joined the group. But in any case, isn’t he confessing that he knowingly joined an organization of traitors which had offered to ally itself to the arch-enemy of the Jews? Nor can there be any doubt that he joined up with Stern before December 1941, when the Sternists tried to send Nathan Yalin-Mor to Turkey to contact the German ambassador there with the same proposal: that they be allowed to ally themselves to the Third Reich.”

(In his 1994 Summing Up: An Autobiography, Shamir finally told the truth: “In September 1940, my life altered too, for I left the Irgun with Yair” (Stern’s Lehi name) “to enter the deeper underground from which Lehi fought our outlaw war against the British.”)

Rebutting the Prime Minister of Israel’s lie brought enormous attention to my book. Among other things, I was told that Ken Livingstone, Leader of the Greater London Council, wanted to meet me. (A Lord Mayor ran the tiny City of London (2.9km) while the Leader really was the mayor of metropolitan London. Later Britain’s parliament created the Greater London Authority and Ken became London’s first elected Mayor in 2000.) 

Ken interviewed me for his Labour Herald periodical and attended some of my lectures, then and on my later tours. In 2011 he published his memoir, You Can’t Say That, and devoted four pages to Zionism In The Age Of The Dictators: “Brenner’s book helped form my view of Zionism and its history and so I was not going to be silenced by smears of anti-Semitism whenever I criticized Israeli government policies.”

In 2015 pro-Palestinian Jeremy Corbyn was elected Leader of the Labour Party. This triggered rightwing Labourite claims that anti-Semitism is a major Labour Party problem. An April 28, 2016 statement on BBC Radio London by Livingstone led to his party membership being suspended: 

“Let's remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism - this before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews." (Hitler dominated the 1932 election but became Chancellor on January 30, 1933.)

An April 29 Guardian article, “Ken Livingstone cites Marxist book in defence of Israel comments,” brought me into the controversy: 

“Speaking to the Guardian on Friday, Livingstone praised Lenni Brenner, the author of Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, and said the book was full of details that he would cite in his defence.”

Readers indeed know I cite details of Nazi support for Zionism. So let me close on that topic with an ‘official detail.’

In 1935 Reinhardt Heydrich, an SS leader, wrote an article for its organ Das Schwarze Korps: “The Zionists adhere to a strict racial position and by immigrating to Palestine they are helping to build their own Jewish state.” He wished them a fond farewell: “The time cannot be far distant when Palestine will again be able to accept its sons who have been lost to it for over a thousand years. Our good wishes together with our official good will = go with them.”

Labour granted Ken a hearing re his suspension and will give him another but the anti-Semitism battle has been submerged in the larger fight over whether the party should be imperialist or anti-imperialist. Another Leader election is scheduled in September. It isn’t possible to foresee whether his membership will be reinstated, but Ken promised me that the increasingly popular anti-Zionism fight will go on in any circumstances.

 

Lenni Brenner is an American Trotskyist writer. In the 1960s, Brenner was a prominent civil rights activist and a prominent opponent of the Vietnam War. He is the author of ‘Zionism In The Age Of The Dictators’, in which he argued that many Zionist leaders collaborated with fascism, particularly Nazi Germany in order to build up the Jewish presence in Palestine