American Jews have a problem: the history they tell themselves and the world has serious blind spots. Per the standard narrative, Jews have not only proudly served their country through thick and thin, but they have served nobly in steering the US in a specifically liberal progressive direction. This is true when it came to Jews who supported socialist causes, fighting McCarthyism, or struggling for civil rights of all kinds. All this involvement is of course of the most moderate kind, of the sort any standard liberal can be proud of today.
But while very broadly true, it ignores outright or glosses over a small but significant number of Jews — both in America and elsewhere — who went further, actively supporting and assisting communist regimes of the most murderous kind, first and foremost the USSR. The Rosenbergs are merely the most prominent example of this kind in the United States.
Let’s be clear: the Rosenbergs were guilty of high treason against the United States. Both of them. The declassified NSA VENONA decrypts are unequivocal on this, and the question of whether testimony provided in their actual trial was false or misleading does not change the fact of their ultimate guilt. They provided one of the most murderous tyrants in charge of one of the most murderous regimes in history the secret to produce the most lethal weapon ever devised. They did so, moreover, out of clear ideological conviction and devotion to that tyrant.
It is therefore a gross embarrassment and an outrage that the New York City Council has decided to honor Ethel Rosenberg, not only for her socialist activism but also for being “wrongly” executed. This plays into the mythology of the Rosenbergs’ innocence — and by implication many others who willingly assisted communist regimes such as IF Stone. It certainly does not deserve a place of honor in Jewish history or in the United States.
The Torah commands that we “expunge the evil from our midst,” (Deut. 17:7) even if they be our own flesh and blood.
The Jews who actively supported or abetted the USSR or other communist regimes in the manner of the Rosenbergs were evil. They have no place alongside those who fought for democracy, freedom, civil rights or social justice. The Jewish People has many, many genuine liberal and socialist/social-democratic heroes and even martyrs who are more than worthy of being placed in our pantheon. Let us not sully their name by associating them with monsters and their allies.