Albert Einstein was a brilliant physicist, but he was not the most prescient political analyst. He was viewed as a great Zionist, so much so that Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion offered Einstein the opportunity to serve as Israel’s President. On November 17, 1952 Abba Eban wrote to Einstein, “Whether you would accept the Presidency of Israel if it were offered you by a vote of the Knesset… acceptance would entail moving to Israel and taking its citizenship…the Prime Minister’s question embodies the deepest respect which the Jewish people can repose in any of its sons.”
The invitation to Einstein is understandable. Like many Jews of his time, Dr. Einstein had fled Nazi Germany. He had gained world notoriety and his scientific explorations had opened up vistas of understanding for the entire world. His ascension to Israel’s Presidency would lend needed validity to the young Jewish state. But one act of Dr. Einstein should give us pause before accepting that he would have been a good President for Israel.
Etzel was a paramilitary group that along with the Haganah and Lechi, fought the British and defended against the Arab population in Pre-State Palestine. Menachem Begin led Etzel and was responsible for some of the most successful of the Yishuv’s attacks on the British. Chief among them was the King David Hotel bombing. During the War of Israel’s Independence, Eztel fighters were assigned to take Dier Yassin, an Arab village outside of Jerusalem. Arab members of the town opened fire and as the fighting broke out, 107 Arabs were killed, many in their homes. The Haganah condemned Etzel’s actions, and a narrative was quickly started that Etzel had committed an immoral massacre at Deir Yassin. History has validated Etzel’s claim that they acted in self-defense, but the narrative stuck. Between the civilian casualties of the King David Hotel bombing, the “Deir Yassin Massacre” and Begin’s right wing views, the left quickly disparaged Begin as an out of control terrorist.
In December of 1948 Menachem Begin planned on visiting America to raise funds for his new political party. In an incredible act of arrogance, Jewish dignitaries, including Albert Einstein, published a letter in The New York Times protesting Begin’s visit to the United States. They denounced Begin and his new party, Herut, as “a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties.”
That’s right, Albert Einstein, hero of the Jewish people, called another Jewish hero, future Israeli Prime Minister, Nobel laureate, and peacemaker, Menachem Begin, a Nazi and a fascist. Today we know Einstein was wrong in his assessment and in the words of Begin biographer Rabbi Dr. Daniel Gordis, did “Long term damage to Begin and to the causes for which he stood.” It was a shame that Jews stood against Jews, and it was wrong that they did so simply because they disagreed with each other.
If only it ended there, but today we watch as another set of left wing Jews publicly denounce a Jew who has done nothing wrong other than holding a differing political position. J Street has released a barrage of scathing and undeserved attacks against future American Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. J Street needs to take a lesson from history — Jews shouldn’t publicly take a stand against fellow Jews. There’s no justification for J Street’s attacks against Friedman. David Friedman he has shown himself to be a loyal American and a friend to Israel. A true Zionist, Friedman has supported Israeli towns and causes for decades. His view point is in line with Prime Minister Netanyahu and has stood firm in promoting American law that the American Embassy should be moved to Israel’s capitol, Jerusalem. Friedman will be the perfect Ambassador between President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
I suspect J Street’s real issue with Friedman isn’t his differing viewpoint. J Street’s problem with Friedman is his constant highlighting of J Street’s harmful positions on Israel. Friedman sheds light on the fact that if followed, J Street’s positions on Israel would cause Israel and her people grave harm. Friedman’s authoritative Ambassador pulpit will hurt J Street’s fundraising efforts as people begin to recognize J Street’s true agenda. Here in Israel we welcome David Friedman’s appointment and look forward to J Street’s weakened influence. We’d hope that those Jewish organizations that take issue with Friedman’s appointment because they disagree with him, learn from Einstein’s mistake and keep their concerns within the community. Just because you disagree with him doesn’t mean you should publicly stand against him.