The Clare Spark Blog

December 7, 2013

Ben Hecht v. Ben Urwand, the un-Jewish Left, and ‘assimilated’ Jews

Ben Hecht

Ben Hecht

I have read four times the controversial Ben Urwand book that claims that Hollywood was in bed with Hitler. Upon rereading, I saw that Urwand’s sensationalistic argument that Hollywood moguls and established Jewish organizations had failed to oppose the Third Reich in the 1930s and even afterwards, reached its climax with the trotting out of novelist, journalist, polemicist, screenwriter, and playwright Ben Hecht as Urwand’s role model and inspiration. Urwand  appropriated Hecht’s life and politics to demonstrate that there was indeed one Jew who protested against weak-kneed “Hollywood’s” toleration of the Third Reich’s antisemitism,  but who was, like much of the New Left, no “Zionist.”

And so I wrote the following three blogs, but these were formulated before reading Hecht’s autobiography, in which I could see how Urwand, an aspiring screenwriter himself, could pounce on the imagined “collaboration” by moneybags moguls, while distancing himself from “Zionists”—and more, that Urwand failed to understand that Hecht was, for eight years, a strong ally, even a leader, to the “terrorist” Irgun, and that when Hecht referred to “Zionists” he referred solely to the Jewish Agency that was baring its neck to the British Empire that, I suspect, had no intention of giving up the Palestine Mandate and that wanted Moslem allies. Hecht was harshly critical of such Anglophiles as Chaim Weizmann, David Ben Gurion, Moshe Shertok, and Golda Meyerson (later Golda Meir), in the last section of A CHILD OF THE CENTURY (1954). That the “moderate” Palestine Jews could have killed fellow Jews in the sinking of the Altalena and the murder of some of the fighting  underground’s greatest heroes would seem to have broken Hecht’s heart, for he quickly wound up his book after this (intra-Jewish) world-shaking event.

https://clarespark.com/2013/06/13/hollywoods-pact-with-hitler/

https://clarespark.com/2013/09/13/urwands-collaboration-hollywoods-pact-with-hitler/

https://clarespark.com/2013/10/10/urwand-undoes-chaplins-dictator/ (Hecht was an admirer of Chaplin’s “great” artistry.)

https://clarespark.com/2013/11/23/the-pitfalls-in-writing-history-of-the-movies/

Ben Hecht, though clearly an ally to “the common man” even threw FDR overboard, as he recalled FDR’s betrayal of Holocaust survivors seeking a haven in Palestine (soon to be Israel), by making promises to the Nazified Ibn Saud that FDR would keep refugee Jews out of Palestine.

Make no mistake: Ben Hecht was no lover of Hollywood  movies, which he wrote, he says, to replenish his ever dwindling coffers. Nor was he an admirer of the moguls, nor of the quality of the trash that Hollywood generally turned out, to the detriment of the high culture that Hecht embraced as a lifelong autodidact and genius. Hecht admits that his sympathy for Jewish life was aroused initially by his poor immigrant Yiddish-speaking relatives, and then his shock and horror that the Nazi massacre of European Jewry was proceeding apace without publicizing by “good Jews”, e.g. Rabbi Stephen Wise, the American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith, and the entire Jewish establishment. There were two American Jews who stood by him, as he tells it: Moss Hart and Kurt Weill (the latter a refugee from Germany of course).

(For more on Ben Hecht’s pageant that raised funds for the Irgun and the committee led by Peter Bergson, aka Hillel Kook, Google “WE WILL NEVER DIE”.)

Scene from We Will Never Die pageant

Scene from We Will Never Die pageant

I have been through the previously restricted Ralph Bunche UN papers at UCLA, and can testify that Hecht’s rage at the United Nations was entirely justified. Bunche’s early opposition to antisemitism among blacks in America would seem to have been inspired by the communist Left’s opposition to antisemitism in the 1930s. No sooner had Bunche been co-opted by liberals, he was on board with the US Department of State and the British Empire in opposing “Jewish” expansionism.  Ben Hecht, by contrast, ended his autobiography with a shout out to Eretz Israel, a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan River. (Hecht may have been the most articulate inheritor of Vladimir Jabotinsky.)

eretzisrael

Ironically, Ralph Bunche made a secret visit to Menachem Begin in 1947, and was enthused about an enlarged Eretz Israel, in which there was room enough for all. But all that was before Bunche got the message from on high, and succumbed to his fellow persons of “color,” the classy Egyptians who courted him, unlike the vulgar Jews who assassinated Count Bernadotte, the latter a flunkey for Brits and antisemitic Americans in the State Department.

For the Wiki biography of Ben Hecht see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Hecht. But better still, read all the Hecht you can get your hands on, especially A CHILD OF THE CENTURY (1954). It will clear your head of cobwebs.

June 17, 2011

The famed “Jewish vote”

Peter Bergson, born Hillel Kook

Roger Simon, Pajamas Media CEO, interviewed members of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Los Angeles, and posted a short video of his sampling (http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/pjtv-could-obama-lose-jewish-voters-in-2012/).  Interviewees included such prominent Republicans as Andrew Breitbart and Frank Luntz. At one point, Roger Simon asked one person if voting Democratic was “in our DNA?” Luntz, in a different interview, opined that Jews in Florida, Nevada and Ohio could sway the next election, implying that a majority of Jews did not have to switch parties to change the outcome of the election of 2012.

This blog is about the conception of “the Jewish vote” and an historical suggestion as to the apparent loyalty of a majority of “Jews” to a political party that is now openly hostile to Israel.  In no particular order:

The very conception of “the Jewish vote” is ideological and often racist in its assigning of a collective identity to “the Jews”.  For instance, Truman’s famous de facto recognition of Israel, barely beating out the Soviet Union’s recognition in May 1948, is sometimes  attributed to the concentration of Jews in New York City, and the importance of that constituency to his campaign for president. Or sometimes, his old Jewish friend and business partner Eddie Jacobson gets the credit for swaying Truman into accepting a meeting with Chaim Weizmann—an encounter that is said to have revitalized Truman’s sympathy for the plight of the stranded displaced persons who wished to emigrate to Israel, and who had incurred his wrath as overly pushy in their American representatives (Peter Bergson or Abba Hillel Silver).   What is left out of such narratives is the Cold War and the strategic position of Israel, a new state that was being ostentatiously wooed by the Soviet Union, and which could not have beaten its enemies without arms shipped secretly from Czechoslovakia.  (On the ever-expansionist Soviet Union: it expected Israelis to lead the Arab lower classes into revolution against the U.K. and its cooperating Arab elites.)

The bad part about predicting that Jews may switch parties because of Israel and its growing unpopularity among academic elites is this: it buttresses the antisemitic notion that Jews have dual loyalties, that they are indeed “ a people apart,” the Wandering Jews (rootless cosmopolitans) who never put down roots but adhere to tribal loyalties and the directives of their domineering, militaristic, and angry Jewish God as represented in the (Christian) Old Testament.  The irony is that few if any American presidents (relying on the Arabist State Department) have put the interests of Israel above the national interests of the U.S., notwithstanding the allegedly omnipotent “Jewish lobby.” (See https://clarespark.com/2009/09/11/oil-politics-and-obamas-view-of-israeli-history/.)

The second point is the long memory of Americans who are allegedly “Jewish” and who are liberal or Marxists through cultural (not biological) inheritance.  It is true that Tikkun Olam is a critical component of the Jewish faith and “Jewish” cultural identity (though its meaning is disputed, with many arguing that personal repentance and reparations, not a broad social activist mandate was intended), but possibly more important as a factor influencing “the Jewish vote” is this:  the vast majority of Americans of Jewish descent look back to grandparents and great-grandparents who were of Eastern European origin, and who made their way in America as workers and small businessmen.  They were often greeted by the nativism of WASP elites, or the antagonism of rival ethnic groups (Irish, Italian, Polish) in the tough neighborhoods where the penniless immigrants landed. Since many WASPs and progressive Catholics occupied powerful positions in the professions and in government, playing ball with the progressives was a route to assimilation and escape from the ghettoes. As for the famous Jews of Hollywood, whatever their personal feelings may have been, they catered to the populism of the American majority, which was profitable if masochistic, since populists have always hated “the money power,” a force that is unmistakably “Jewish,” as repulsive and aggressive as the “Jewish” God. And populism is more palatable in the Democratic Party, where successful persons of Jewish descent can continue to fight for the underdog and the outsider.

Blog at WordPress.com.