By Lenni Brenner
Every major American daily newspaper ran an obituary upon the June 30 death of Yitzhak Shamir, Israel’s 7th Prime Minister, 1983-84 and 1986-92. Many said something critical about him, but none fully dealt with the most disgraceful period of his career. He was passionately for a Zionist alliance with Hitler in 1940-41.
In 1983, a British publisher, Croom Helm, produced my first book, Zionism in the Age of the Dictators. They had given me a wonderful command: “You are about to write the most controversial book imaginable. Your opponents will look for the slightest error and magnify it. So there can be no errors. Give us a photo copy of anything you quote, or it doesn’t get into the book.”
I was in Jerusalem when Shamir, a villain in chapter 26, “The Stern Gang,” was appointed Prime Minister, just days before I was scheduled to lecture in London, and impress skeptics by showing them the complete texts of the most incriminating documents. Among these was the “Proposal of the National Military Organization (Irgun Zvai Leumi) Concerning the Solution of the Jewish Question in Europe and the Participation of the NMO in the War on the side of Germany.”
Shamir had been a founder of the group that the British called the Stern Gang, so I had their Proposal printed in an English language Jerusalem PLO weekly. But no Zionists responded to it. Disappointed, I left for Britain.
When I got to Heathrow airport, I bought the October 21 issue of The Times and discovered that foreign journalists asked Shamir to discuss their Proposal. Shamir “denied that he had any part in the efforts by Mr. Abraham Stern, the original commander of Lehi… to establish contact with the Nazis…. I opposed this… but I did join Lehi after the idea of contacts with the Axis countries was dropped.” (They had been in Vladimir Jabotinsky’s National Military Organization, Irgun Zvai Leumi. When they split off, they claimed to be ‘the real Irgun.’ Later they called themselves Fighters for the Freedom of Israel, Lohamei Herut Yisrael, acronym Lehi.)
I rushed to The Times with a letter and showed an editor the Proposal in German and English. I told him that I couldn’t prove then and there that Shamir had been a founder. “Well you certainly didn’t make up their Proposal in German. We’ll take your letter.” It ran on November 4th.
“As an American, away from my files, I cannot be certain exactly when in 1940 Shamir joined the group. But… isn’t he confessing that he knowingly joined an organization of traitors which had offered to ally itself to the archenemy of the Jews? Nor can there be any doubt that he joined… before December 1941, when the Sternists tried to send Nathan Yallin-Mor to Turkey… with the same proposal.”
I found my source for Shamir as a founding member in the British Museum Library. Gerald Frank’s 1963 book, The Deed, is about their 1944 assassination of the British High Commissioner for the Middle East.
Frank, a pro-Zionist, had Shamir giving a speech to the ranks of the rival Irguns under his born name, Yizernitsky, shortly after the September 1940 split. “He spoke tersely, summing up the reason behind Stern’s decision to walk out of the Irgun.”
I let The Times know about Frank’s book. A few weeks later The Times phoned me. "Edward Mortimer, our Middle East specialist, had been there when your letter ran and just returned. He would like to meet you.” I gave him a copy of my book, and we had a deep discussion about Zionism.
After my lectures, which attracted a lot attention because of the letter re Shamir, I returned to the US. There I received the February 11 issue of The Times. In it was "Contradiction, collusion and controversy," Mortimer’s review of Zionism in the Age of the Dictators:
“Zionism itself encouraged and exploited self-hatred in the Diaspora. It started from the assumption that anti-Semitism was inevitable and even in a sense justified so long as Jews were outside the land of Israel. It is true that only an extreme lunatic fringe of Zionism went so far as to offer to join the war on Germany's side in 1941, in the hope of establishing ‘the historical Jewish state on a national and totalitarian basis, and bound by a treaty with the German Reich.’ Unfortunately this was the group which the present Prime Minister of Israel chose to join.
"That fact gives an extra edge of topicality to what would in any case be a highly controversial study of the Zionist record in the heyday of European fascism by Lenni Brenner, an American Trotskyist writer who happens also to be Jewish. It is short (250 pages), crisp and carefully documented.”
Later, we met in New York when Mortimer became the UN’s Director of Communications (2001 to 2006). I asked if Israel’s delegation ever publicly objected to him because of his review of my book. “No, they didn’t dare to.”
I’ll tell you what the postage will be. Then send me cash or a check or postal money order, and very soon thereafter you will be so much the wiser.