When the Radical American Left Loved Israel
On a miserably rainy day in March 1948, 10,000 Jewish Communists and their supporters marched from 7th Avenue and 29th Street to Union Square in Manhattan. “Youthful and disciplined,” the New York Times reported, they “raised their battle cry of ‘solidarity forever’ as they marched through driving rain and pelting hailstones.” The marchers carried the American flag “alongside the blue and white Jewish emblem with the Star of David.” Their signs read “Arms to Haganah,” “Smash the Gentlemen’s Agreement between the State Department and Standard Oil,” and “Save the Jewish State: Smash the Embargo.”
It was not just Jewish leftists, and not just Communists; in 1948, the entire American left supported the creation of the state of Israel. Intellectuals, such as the journalist I.F. Stone and the editor of the Nation, Freda Kirchwey, played an all-but-forgotten role in gaining mainstream support for the fledgling Jewish state at a time when public sympathy and recognition were integral to its survival. Yet today, the campaign to delegitimize Israel has become the 21st century’s version of what the old European social democrats called “the anti-Semitism of the fools.” The global left, including its American wing, reveals, as the British journalist Nick Cohen has put it, an era in which “the notion that Israel is an illegitimate state has gone from the fringe to the mainstream of left-wing discourse.”
About the Author
Ronald Radosh is an adjunct fellow at Hudson Institute and a columnist for PJ Media. He is coauthor, with Allis Radosh, of A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel (Harper). This article is adapted from a talk he gave at the Jews and the Left International Conference held in New York City on May 6, 2012.