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Real Courage: Jewish Journalists Address Jewish Role in Communist Subversion

Posted on | June 21, 2019 | Comments Off on Real Courage: Jewish Journalists Address Jewish Role in Communist Subversion

The editors of Mosaic deserve tremendous credit for publishing “The Death of Morton Sobell and the End of the Rosenberg Affair,” by David Evanier, and two responses, “Few American Jews Were Communists, and Many Fewer Were Spies,” by Harvey Klehr, and “Why It’s Necessary to Bring Jewish Communism into Full View,” by Ruth Wisse.

These essays help provide a factual understanding of a complex phenomenon that most historians and journalists have tried to avoid, with the result that silence and ignorance have given rise to paranoia. You cannot suppress anti-Semitism by avoiding unfortunate facts, and the fact is that Communists used false accusations of anti-Semitism as part of their propaganda efforts against the United States during the Cold War. Yes, there were a disproportionate number of Jews involved in the CPUSA, and many Jewish Communists (including Morton Sobell and the Rosenbergs) were also among those engaged in Soviet espionage. However, in the immediate aftermath of World War II, with the crimes of Hitler still a very fresh memory, the Soviets and their CPUSA henchmen cleverly exploited this to their advantage, accusing American anti-Communists of being Jew-hating “fascists” while proclaiming the innocence of the Rosenbergs and other Soviet spies. As Wisse points out, this Big Lie isn’t just some remote historical controversy, but it has consequences down to this very day, persuading many Jewish Americans that they must always identify with those allegedly “oppressed” by American society. Furthermore, because our universities and media institutions have been unwilling to address this topic directly, they have unwittingly given aid and comfort to anti-Semites, who love to depict Jews as inherently subversive, while claiming that powerful Jews use their influence to conceal the extent of this subversion.

To depict all Jews, collectively, as responsible for the bad actions of a minority within their community, is the kind of guilt-by-association smear that ought never to be tolerated. The truth is the only possible antidote to such smears, and this means we have to be able to acknowledge unpleasant truths that we might prefer to sweep under the rug. It’s a simple fact that the Communist Party included a lot of Jews, as Harvey Klehr makes clear:

Although Jews made up a disproportionate share of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) — perhaps as much as 40 percent in 1939 — the party itself never held more than 100,000 members. So, in an American Jewish population of several million, a tiny percentage were Communists. . . .
In 1945, three of the six people arrested in the Amerasia case, the first espionage case of the cold war, were Jewish. (None was ever successfully prosecuted for spying.) In 1947, six of the Hollywood Ten who on First Amendment grounds refused to answer questions when subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Commission (HUAC) were Jewish. In 1949, five of the eleven top leaders of the CPUSA convicted under the Smith Act of conspiring to teach and advocate the overthrow of the American government were Jewish. In the 1948 presidential election, Henry Wallace, formerly FDR’s vice-president now running on the Progressive ticket with Communist backing, drew only a little more than a million votes altogether; but, by one estimate, about a third of American Jewish voters, a much larger percentage than the number of Jews in the CPUSA, cast their ballots for him.

In other words, if you were concerned about Communism circa 1947-49, a certain level of suspicion toward Jews was justified, even though the vast majority of Jews were not Communists. And to look at the obverse of the case, it might be that an ordinary Jew-hater would engage in anti-Communist rhetoric as a way to promote his pet prejudice, but this certainly doesn’t mean that every anti-Communist was a Jew-hater.

You cannot protect the innocent by denying the guilt of the guilty. You cannot solve a social problem by pretending it doesn’t exist, by minimizing it, justifying it or rationalizing it. Communism was a grave threat to constitutional liberty in America, and to U.S. national security, and the role of Jews in supporting Communism needs to be confronted soberly by historians, especially by Jewish historians. One thing I like to point out, whenever anti-Semitism rears its ugly head in discussions of the Cold War, is that while the Rosenbergs were Jews, the federal judge who sentenced them to death, Judge Irving Kaufman, was also Jewish.

Part of the problem is that Cold War history is either ignored in our schools, or taught from a pro-Communist perspective, recycling Soviet propaganda claims about the irrational “paranoia” of the 1950s, with “McCarthyism” made to seem a greater menace than Stalinism. Young people generally know nothing about the Bolshevik Revolution or the atrocities committed by Communist regimes. Sympathetic portrayals of accused Communists as being victims of a right-wing “witch hunt” in the 1950s are part of a liberal mythology that Jeanne Kirkpatrick once summarized succinctly: “They always blame America first.”

To augment that mythology by falsely accusing anti-Communists of anti-Semitism is dangerous for several reasons, particularly because Jew-haters are likely to exploit this for their own purposes, and the editors of Mosaic deserve credit for taking direct aim at this myth.



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