Saturday, May 16, 2009

Einstein and Zionism

Reclaiming Einstein: New Book Reveals Famed Scientist
as an Opponent of Israel

By Jaisal Noor
>From the May 15, 2009 issue

Countless books and articles have been written about
the life of the great physicist and thinker Albert
Einstein, and since his death in 1955, a near consensus
has existed that Einstein was a staunch supporter of
the state of Israel.

Veteran journalist Fred Jerome uses hundreds of pages
of Einstein's own letters, articles and interviews -
many published for the first time - to refute this

It is well known that Einstein, a German Jew, witnessed
European anti-Semitism firsthand and spoke out against
both prejudice and Nazism. These experiences convinced
Einstein to support Zionism and a Jewish homeland.
After gaining immense fame for his scientific
breakthroughs, he was offered the presidency of Israel
in 1952 after the death of the country's first
president, Chaim Weizmann.

In reality, while Einstein was sympathetic to the
Zionist cause, he repeatedly warned that a "narrow
nationalism" may arise if a Jewish-only state was
founded and peaceful co-existence with the Palestinians
was not achieved. Instead, Einstein advocated Cultural
Zionism - the creation of Jewish cultural and
educational centers within a bi-national state with
equal rights for both Arabs and Jews.

When Einstein was offered the Israeli presidency,
Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion stated, "I've
had to offer him the post because it was impossible not
to, but if he accepts we are in for trouble." In a
letter written in the same year, Einstein compared the
Zionists' project with that of the Pilgrims, noting,
"how tyrannical, intolerant and aggressive [they]
became after a short while." And in Einstein's last
media interview, which ran in the New York Post a month
before his death, he stated "We had great hopes for
Israel at first. We thought it might be better than
other nations, but it is no better."

Jerome has authored two previous books about Einstein;
The Einstein File: J. Edgar Hoover's Secret War Against
the World's Most Famous Scientist and Einstein on Race
and Racism, co-authored with Rodger Taylor. These books
are essential to understanding Einstein, a self-
described "revolutionary," who publicly stated that he
would use his fame and celebrity status to bring
attention to the causes important to him. For example,
Einstein on Race and Racism details for the first time
Einstein's 20-year friendship with Paul Robeson. While
the first two books were aimed at filling a large gap
in the knowledge about Einstein's radical beliefs and
political activism, Einstein on Zionism and Israel
seeks to debunk the myth that Einstein was a supporter
of Israel.

In the process, Jerome reveals much about the nature of
mainstream propaganda. Einstein's opposition to Israel
was widely known and reported on during his life. In
fact, the myth of Einstein's support of Israel was born
the day after Einstein's death in his obituary in The
New York Times, which shamelessly wrote that he
"championed" the establishment of the Jewish state.
This contradicted decades of reporting from the "Paper
of Record." Jerome provides some examples, including a
1930 article headlined "Einstein attacks British Zion
Policy," a 1938 article stating Einstein was "Against
Palestine State" and a 1946 article stating Einstein
"Bars Jewish State."

The book ends with a quote from author and intellectual
Gore Vidal, "The only question that really matters:
Why?" Jerome follows with, "Why have we not known?"

The New York Society of Ethical Culture will host a
reception to celebrate the release of Einstein on
Zionism and Israel May 28, 6:30 p.m. 2 West 64th Street
in Manhattan. The event is free.

The Indypendent's Jaisal Noor sat down with author Fred
Jerome to discuss why Albert Einstein is remembered for
his physics and not his politics.

Jaisal Noor: Why did you decide to write this book on
Einstein and his views on Israel and Zionism?

Fred Jerome: When Einstein met Paul Robeson in 1952,
Einstein had just turned down the offer to be president
of Israel. According to Lloyd Brown [who was present at
that meeting] Einstein told Robeson why he had turned
down the invitation: He didn't agree with Israel, with
the nationalism, the establishment of the state of
Israel, and so on. In both my previous books, there was
a brief discussion about Israel. In addition, it is so
clearly one of the central issues of today's world. We
cannot ignore this issue and pretend to be concerned
about the world or people in the world. It seemed
logical to me that if I was going to be concerned about
what was happening in Israel, particularly the Israeli
oppression of the Palestinians .. it would be a logical
step to write more on what Einstein had to say. I
contacted the Einstein Archives in Jerusalem, and they
actually thought it would be a good idea and encouraged
me and said that they could provide information that
probably had never been published before.

JN: You started with the Einstein Archive in Jerusalem
- where else did you go?

FJ: Einstein gave all his papers to the Hebrew
University in Jerusalem because he actually helped to
found the Hebrew University. As a Cultural Zionist, he
was in favor of cultural centers, like universities,
but opposed to a Jewish state or nation. I also tried
to talk to as many people as possible who talked to
Einstein, knew Einstein, who remember Einstein. The
most important was [eminent Egyptian journalist]
Mohammed Heikel in Cairo. I included this interview,
which was certainly never mentioned in any of the more
than 100 books on Einstein.

JN: Could you describe the reaction the press had to
your previous works on Einstein and the reaction you
expect from this one?

FJ: The press's reaction to the first book, The
Einstein File [2002], was one of very significant
interest, maybe because J. Edgar Hoover had fallen out
of favor with the media in the past 20 years. And so
you have a bad guy versus a good guy, Einstein being
the good guy. He had just been named Person of the
Century by Time Magazine in the year 2000 when I was
working on the first book, and I had come up with this
file that no one else had - the entire file. So it was
a combination of new information and kind of a sexy
theme. Then The New York Times devoted a full page of
its science section when the book first came out - that
helped get the book covered by lots of other media

When the book Einstein on Race and Racism [2006] came
out, there was virtually no coverage in the mainstream
media. There was some coverage in the Black press,
including the Amsterdam News, some of the websites and
so on. Publisher's Weekly did a review in which they
said that it was a good book, was well written, well
researched, no complaints, no criticisms. Einstein was
a race man, but so what? Six months after the book came
out The New York Times finally did do a review of the
book, a very favorable review of the book, and
published it only in the New Jersey edition, which has
very few readers compared to their other editions.

So the contrast was striking. I think primarily because
the mainstream media in America really don't want to
write about racism in America and certainly don't want
to identify Einstein with an antiracist position. The
other reason the media have ignored this book is that
part of the book is Einstein's friendship with Paul
Robeson and while they finally did put Paul Robeson on
a postage stamp, after much struggle and protest,
clearly the mainstream media and the corporate
interests they represent are still afraid of Paul
Robeson's leftism, his socialism, activism, the
resistance to them he represented. Outside of the
mainstream media it has gotten a very positive
reaction. [Co-author] Rodger Taylor and I are still
getting invited to speak, five years after the book was
published, by students and other groups around the
country. But the media reaction was clearly "don't
touch it."

And my anticipation for this book is that most of the
mainstream media will have the same reaction to this
book, because I think that their attitude on Israel-
Palestine for the most part is well over 150 percent
support for Washington's total backing of the Israeli
government. They have been saying in the mainstream
media that Einstein was a big supporter of Israel, and
they have been saying that since the day he died, over
60 years ago. They never said it while he was alive.


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