It is interesting to note - another American appoggiatura if you will, unfortunately its not a verb (see Arban's) - that among the more notable people who were approached to lend their name and reputation to the Anti Nazi boycott was Waldo Frank, at the time a well-known writer who was associated with several left-liberal causes and enterprises; a novelist and literary critic during the post-World War I years and was most identified with his writings about Spain and South America. He was, back then, a sort of celebrity; a public intellectual who seemed to be everywhere and seen everything and was invited to speak on his various adventures. He was as well-known in his time as a writer and journalist as Judith Butler is in hers among the academy movers and shakers, women's rights groups and left-leaning political conferences. When asked by the "non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League if he would participate in some way with their boycott he wrote ( in November, 1934):
"...I am aware of the fact that there are several organizations in the country conducting antiNazi activities on non-sectarian grounds; indeed, I serve on at least one such committee. But I am afraid that this does not cover the point which I made..that the Jews as a group (insofar as they have spoken with group emphasis) have based their opposition to Hitlerism on the chief ground of the oppression of Jewry; and that they have permitted the boycott to become identified in this country principally with their racial or sectarian grievance against the Germans as oppressors of Jews. Whatever common cause has been made with the socialists and liberals and communists in Germany has been done so inconspicuously as not to have borne weight.
This is one point. My other grievance relates to my general skepticism about boycotts in any form. They are a dangerous weapon, because they can not be intelligently controlled. If for instance the Jews claim that they are interested in a boycott against Germany primarily because of their championship of human rights, why do they stop at Germany? What will they do if someone shows them that human rights are also being tramped down in Italy, in Japan?
I have found no reason to withdraw my conviction that the Jewish boycott action against Germany has been against the best interest of the Jews(in the long run): and it is this interest, believe me, which I have at heart."
Ouch. Now this is a kid from West 78th St ( another New Yorker- from comfortable middle-class Jewish home), A DeWitt Clinton grad (when it was on 10th Avenue and 59th St, where John Jay College is today) his folks were able to send him to school in Switzerland before he enrolled in Yale where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa, Class 1911. Sound familiar, eh? But he worked summers on ranches out in Wyoming and Montana and after college lived in Greenwich Village as a struggling? writer.
He was photographed by Stieglitz, found work with some of the newer journals and magazines, started to travel more and by the time this letter had been written he had traveled down South with the Black poet, Jean Toomer - he actually put on "blackface" to be able to stay with Toomer during this time (now therein lies a good tale); was beaten by fascists in Buenos Aires, flew in a single-engine plane over the Andes, and was run out of Harlan County, Kentucky by coal-company goons and sheriff deputies while investigating a coal strike in the early 30's. Eventually during his lifetime he would meet seemingly everyone from Kahlil Gibran to Charlie Chaplin to the President of Mexico to Fidel Castro to fill-in-the-blank. He would describe himself as a Jew without Judaism and an American without America; a true man of the world. It is the markedly avowing socialist-weltanschauung (thats right two u's) that still resonates among the social-justice seekers and anti-war advocates and hope-filled dreamers; nation-states are passe and we all should just be concerned with each other while singing John Lennon tunes ( I mean that's what we all should be striving for). Frank would later on write books about Jews and Israel always emphasizing what he considered to be the paradox of Israel:
"their belonging within their not-belonging and it is unthinkable without the participation of its neighbors who, in their cultures, have been both the Jews' heirs and their enemies.
Because the Zionists reject this paradox, I have never been and could not be a Zionist. By Zionist ideology, the Jews do not belong in Europe. But if, more than any other culture including the Greek, they created Europe, who with better right than the Jews belong in Europe? and in the West that Europe fathered?"
Waldo Frank was certainly not an unintelligent man. He was a man with deep wellsprings of compassion and humanity. The quote is from his book, Bridgehead, The Drama of Israel, published in 1957-58, not quite a decade removed from the War of Independence and only 13 years since the "liberation" of Auschwitz, etal and yet just as sure as a passing remark by the once lovable HelenThomas made over a half century later would mirror in its latent way that same sentiment I don't think there's a Jew on earth - from whatever side of the political divide- that does not do a double-take, physically and philosophically, when they hear or read "the Jews belong in Europe".
"By Zionist ideology, the Arabs are and ever will be outsiders-however amicable and at peace. But the consanguinity of Arab and Israeli is deeper than blood, more substantial than the machines and technics of the West which today separate "modern" Israel from "feudal" Islam. For the machines of Christian Europe, as I have elsewhere shown, spring ordinately from Israel's culture as it wedded with the Greek; and the religious nationalism of the Arabs is a version...virulent and misguided...of the immanence of God in human conduct, first expressed in the Jewish Torah and today secularized in Palestine no less than in the surrounding hostile Islam."
Sounds a bit Freudian, however, it is a large hearted internationalist who can hope that the very spirit- his word- that divides Israeli and Arab - its interesting to note and I don't want to make too much of it in this context but he never addresses the Arabs as Palestinians- (that very spirit)must bring them together.
Belonging in Europe was a feature of quite a few Jewish scribes writing in the wake of the First World War and the nutty time that was the 20's- especially in Germany and France
traveled throughout Europe as sort of a freelancer and being paid very well as a noted writer-spent the post-war (I) years in Berlin and many in Paris where he was living just before he died in the last spring before the second world war. A contemporary of Frank's -he was 5 years younger- Roth, too, felt that who but the Jew had a better right to live in
"Of all the thousand ways that they have gone, and go, and will go, not one is a way out, not one leads to a concrete, earthly goal. No "fatherland", no "Jewish homeland", no "place of refuge", no "place of liberty". Not exactly a Zionist, Roth thinks that "in seeking a "homeland" of their own, they are rebelling against their deeper nature."
"...zionism can only be a bitter experiment, a temporary opportune degradation of Judaism or perhaps merely the reversion to a primal, long since outmoded, form of national existence. Maybe it has succeeded in arresting or delaying the assimilation of Jewish individuals or groups. But in return it seeks to assimilate an entire people. If it appeals to the warlike traditions of Judaism, then one should counter that the conquest of Canaan is less of an achievement than the Bible, the Psalms, and the Song of Songs; also, that the present of the Jews is greater, possibly, than their past: being more tragic."
Roth could have been arguing with the right-wing Zionists of today, I mean he's writing this just after the Arab pogrom in Palestine in 1929 and like Frank he's certainly no idiot- but there is a romantic/political take to his Jewishness- the kind Waldo Frank and to an extent Judith Butler and even your fearless blogger have expressed- Jews are better than this better than statists who insists on the all-importance of The State- nation- states are so passe..etc. And then in the midst of this riff on how Zionism really isn't good in the long run he turns into a Tevye-like chronicler (listen):
"With the help of these terrible jagged letters he gave the Jews the first terrible moral law, for them to spread among the cheerful, blithe peoples of the world. It takes, I thought, a truly divine love to choose this people. There were so many others that were nice, malleable, and well-trained: happy, balanced Greeks, adventurous Phoenicians, artful Egyptians, Assyrians with strange imaginations, northern tribes with beautiful, blond-haired, as it were, ethical primitiveness and refreshing forest smells. But none of the above! The weakest and far from loveliest of peoples was given the most dreadful curse and most dreadful blessing, the hardest law and the most difficult mission: to sow love on earth, and to reap hatred."
Far from loveliest? Thanks a lot. Still he was able to write about the dissolution and utter destruction of his world and people that few writers have ever matched and it remains for others to say whether he was spared the catastrophic horror that was to come when he died- a young man-in that spring before the war. (If you must know- he drank alot...and who could blame him given the time and place?)
Judith Butler, a smart, precocious Jewish girl from Cleveland - and I think we all know how hard that can be on a kid- will take issue with anyone who equates Jews with Zionists or as she writes "Jewishness with Zionism". We can use precocious because we know from an interview she once gave that she was thrown out of her Hebrew school class (in Cleveland?) for talking too much. She was a discipline problem (I know...who wasn't in Hebrew school?) Waldo Frank, too, was thrown out of DeWitt Clinton for refusing to take a Shakespeare course because he said he knew more than the teacher. (Who doesn't like a smart-ass Jewish kid?)