Alex Rose

A Man and His Wayward Son

“The policy is called Havlaga — It is considered a morally superior policy. The Zionists have also pledged themselves to turn over to the British authorities any Jew who does carry a gun.” [Yitzhak Ben Ami]

Chayyim Zeldis, author and educator says of Yitzhak Ben-Ami that he is eminently qualified to document the destruction of European Jewry, the struggle against the British in “Palestine” and the establishment of Israel; his book bears the burning seal of his unsparing search for truth. Dispelling the shadow of myth and lie, “Years of Wrath, Days of Glory” illuminates humanity’s darkest landscape and sheds new light on the creation of the Jewish State.

Born in Palestine, Ben Ami was educated in the Herzliya Gymnasia in Tel Aviv and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He joined the Irgun Zvileumi in 1939. Together with Irish Jewish leader Robert Brisco and Col. John Patterson, he founded the American Friends for illegal Immigration to Palestine while under British Mandate rule. Later, he was co-organizer of the Committee for a Jewish Army and the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe.

Ben Ami [1913-1984], a leading activist in efforts to establish a Jewish State in Palestine, during the 1930s and 1940s, died of a heart attack in New York at the age of 71. From 1946 to 1948, Ben Ami was executive director of the American League for a Free Palestine. He was also a long time activist of Herut Zionists of America and in addition an executive board member.

Yitzhak Ben Ami’s family made aliyah to Palestine in 1882, settling around Petach Tikvah. He recalls his early childhood at age four when the British attacked Palestine in 1917. Four years later, Winston Churchill’s 1922 White Paper formally and unilaterally partitioned the original Palestine Mandate area, creating the protectorate of Trans-Jordan. In the relatively quiet years from 1922 to 1929, the Jews in Palestine did not comprehend how calamitous those developments would be for Jewish life in Palestine and Europe. In the summer of 1932, Ben Ami joined Betar, the political Zionist youth movement, formed in 1925 under Zeev Jabotinsky
Fast forward to 1932 and Ben Ami’s inauguration into the Irgun through Shmuel Katz, a section commander who in later life became a highly acclaimed author. In 1936, the Grand Mufti Amin el Husseini formed the “Arab Higher Committee” around the start of the Arab riots through 1939, the goal being a holy war against Jews, laying a foundation for resistance against Jews returning to Palestine.

In 1920 Herbert Samuel imposed an immigration quota for Jews and by 1937, the Irgun was fully engaged in illegal immigration. Eri Jabotinsky, son of Zeev Jabotinsky, suggested to Ben Ami that he go to Vienna as liaison for the Irgun, given his diplomatic skills. There, he would coordinate efforts with Betar and Jabotinsky’s New Zionist Organization to gather candidates for immigration. In time, following success, Ben Ami moved on to Poland.

Around April 1938, Yitzhak Ben Ami had his first brush with the Nazis in Austria. After being reassured by Dr. Lange that he would be offered assistance in his mission since he welcomed all efforts to have Jews to emigrate to Palestine, he witnessed violence and brutality against Jewish citizens in the streets. Having Adolf Eichman assigned as supervisor for his project did not obviate the pain he felt in what he observed.

What was particularly up lifting was his witnessing the reaction of two ultra-Orthodox bearded Jews being brutalized without losing their dignity. His friend Fritz, an agnostic found himself “pronouncing the name of God.” Not only that, but after several weeks of Nazi rule, he experienced what thousands of years of Jewish history had not impacted him, he learnt what it meant to be a Jew.

Ben Ami’s profundity extended to recalling how Chinese who suffered at the hands of the Japanese, were still able to remain in their own land, as were the Ethiopians following the invasion by Mussolini’s fascists and others, but the Jews “were left without a straw to clutch.”

By 1938, Ben Ami recognized the need for larger boats to accommodate the need for mass evacuation of European Jews while facing constant problems with fund raising. He had undertaken promotional efforts for both immigration and fund raising across Europe – Austria, Poland, France, Switzerland, Chekoslavakia, Italy and even Germany where he met Eichmann’s assistants.

After reflecting on all the issues, Ben-Ami recommended an engagement with the US where there existed a “wealthy aware Jewish community” and gained acceptance of his request to pursue this venue. In so doing, he did question how he would succeed with the wealthy Jews in America when he had failed with those of Europe.

At the time, Ben-Ami drew encouragement from English non-Jewish parliamentarian, Josiah Wedgwood, “I want to see in Palestine once again a fighting nation, free and courageous like the Maccabees — an army of forty thousand and fit to defend what is dear to them and to me–” and Menachem Begin, “After ‘Practical Zionism’ and ‘Political Zionism’ the time has come for ‘Military Zionism’ — We want to fight — To win or die.”

After seemingly reaching a point of no return in Europe where Hitler was gaining success each day, Ben Ami returned to Palestine en route to the US during February, 1939. On September 1939, the great Jewish leader Jabotinsky departed London for New York following the same rational. He said, “England has decided to make their fight her own; and we Jews shall — never forget that for 20 years, until recently, England was our partner in Zion. The Jewish nation’s place is , therefore on all fronts where these countries fight –” No doubt by this he meant that on the one hand Britain inaugurated the Balfour Declaration while on the other it issued the vile 1939 White Paper, outlawing Jewish immigration.

The split within the Irgun occurred in June 1940 and was rooted in the enduring differences of opinion between two schools of thought. The dominant group headed by David Raziel, regarded Jabotinsky as the main leader and accepted the authority of the Revisionist party; the second group led by Avraham Stern [Yair], held that the Irgun should determine its own political path and free itself free of Jabotinsky’s tutelage. In addition, Raziel believed that the Arab front was the main front, while Stern regarded the British as the principle enemy. This opinion was reinforced by the publication of the White Paper of May 17, 1939.

Raziel regarded Hitler as the prime enemy of the Jewish people, and therefore decided that it was essential to collaborate with the British against the joint enemy.

Charles Shapiro wrote the dedication and acknowledgement for Jabotinsky’s, “The War and the Jew.” in it, he discusses, the ideas of the author ” and his disciples; chief among them, Yitzhak Ben-Ami, of Blessed Memory — who aided in the rescue of thousands of Jews from the Holocaust –” In Louis Rapoport’s, “Shake Heaven and Earth – Peter Bergson and the Struggle to Rescue the Jew’s of Europe”, Ben-Ami’s role appears throughout this work. Of particular note, ” Ben-Ami was the only member of the group who had worked under the Nazis during the pre-war period, when the Irgun, with the assent of Gestapo men like Adolph Eichmann, was bringing thousands of European Jews to Palestine illegally –”

Yitzhak Ben-Ami’s interface with the famed American leading journalist and playwright as reported in his own book and Hecht’s “A Child of the Century” relates to the war against establishment Jewry; and the opposition offered by President Roosevelt in a magnificent effort at saving European Jews from the Holocaust. His presence on the Altalena, the ship which the Irgun engaged for the purpose of transporting a large volume of armaments to Palestine and was bombed by Ben Gurion’s storm troopers, also covered by both books, speaks volumes to the integrity of Ben-Ami.

Sydney Zion, a journalist who served the NY Times and other newspapers, reviewed Ben-Ami’s book and commented accordingly; “At long last the story of the Hebrew Revolution that routed the British out of the Holy Land. Nobody handed the Jews a country — they fought for it. That few knew the whole story is an historical tragedy, now corrected by Ben-Ami who played a major role in the events. This extraordinary book is “must” reading for the White House and for people who wish to understand the Middle East today.” Indeed “today” and at all times.

Now, a reflection on Jeremy, the son of Yitzhak Ben-Ami. A son of the Bergson Boys he is not. J Street does not resemble the father in any way, and most certainly not his legacy. This can be seen in his betrayal of the creation of this anti-Zionist monstrosity. Jeremy even said of his father, “He was a terrorist.” Of course, he fails to admit Winston Churchill’s pronouncement that without the Irgun [terrorism] the British would never have departed from Palestine.

By accepting the manta of Israel’s enemies, J Street asserts that, Israel’s Jewish and democratic character depends on a two-state solution, one resulting in a Palestinian state living alongside Israel in peace and security. Some even allude to J Street by seeing through a thin diaphanous veil of treason to Israel.

The real problem with Jeremy Ben Ami and his J Street is what it represents, viz. the idea that American Jews have the right and the responsibility to “transform” Israel when it is perceived to have erred – to impose their ideas in contradiction to Israeli self-determination. This belief weakens both Israel and the US and is suggestive of an implicit repudiation of Zionism itself.

Emerging from grandparents who were both pioneers and heroes and a father who followed in their tradition, a leader in the movement to establish the first independent Jewish state in 2,000 years, what is the son? He is a betrayer of his views.

Dennis Prager has gone to great lengths in explaining the meaning of Israeli sovereignty. When Diaspora Jews fail to claim Israeli citizenship when it is freely offered to them under the Law of Return, they waive the right to demand that Israel act in their name and meet their standards, He has also defined that branch of contemporary liberalism as “leftism” when it extends to extremes. Indeed, what drives detractors such as those who form the body of J Street, and those who have turned gays into a political movement, are clearly stricken by leftism.

Citing a few examples of J Street’s “pro-Israel” positions:
* It encourages its campus extension to promote discredited anti-Israel groups such as “Breaking the Silence”, one which promotes lies about alleged IDF war crimes.
* Refused to condemn the PA-Hamas agreement.
* Described the behavior of IDF commando’s on the Mavi Marmara Gaza flotilla ship as “cruel brutality”.
* Opposed a 2011 Congressional petition condemning Palestinian incitement.

With friends like this, who needs enemies?

About the Author
Alex Rose was born in South Africa in 1935 and lived there until departing for the US in 1977 where he spent 26 years. He is an engineering consultant. For 18 years he was employed by Westinghouse until age 60 whereupon he became self-employed. He was also formerly on the Executive of Americans for a Safe Israel and a founding member of CAMERA, New York (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America and today one of the largest media monitoring organizations concerned with accuracy and balanced reporting on Israel). In 2003 he and his wife made Aliyah to Israel and presently reside in Ashkelon.