Einstein, Zionism and Israel:
Setting the Record Straight

Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq
Associate Professor of Economics and Finance
Upper Iowa University

January 2000
Originally posted on Shetubondhon

Did Albert Einstein support political Zionism as well as the movement for establishment of the State of Israel?  Did he later support the state until his death? Popular answers to these questions might be inaccurate.  Indeed the answers make up a common MYTH

This myth is perpetuated by the Zionist, pro-Israel media. Their motive to distort the public perception of Einstein by portraying him, without any qualifier, as a Zionist, pro-Israel personality is understandable. The tactics and methods of such distortion of the reality in regard to Israel and its allies or adversaries are just all too well-known. As undeniably Einstein was one of the most towering figures of the 20th century's scientific community, to have his endorsement for political Zionism and Israel is just too valuable a political capital to pass up. But more importantly, if he was not portrayed as a pro-Israel, Zionist -- period -- there would always have been a good chance that people might just be curious to find out what his real view was, which could be a serious liability against political Zionism and Israel. Thus, the best way to prevent the world to be better informed about Einstein's view about Zionism and Israel was to use the mighty Zionist media machinery to constantly propagate what is contrary to the truth, create a MYTH about the connection between Einstein and Zionism (political, to be specific) and suppress any information contrary to what is upheld by that machinery. It's a trap so difficult to avoid.

In this age of internet, try to search ("all the words" option) on Einstein and Zionism or Einstein and Israel, and you will see that virtually all the apparently relevant entries that appear at the top1 present Einstein as a pro-Zionism, pro-Israel person, without making any distinction between various types of Zionism. If someone did not probe beyond what is customarily available and did not do additional due diligence, one can be easily duped. For example, if you did that search on MSN search engine, the top entry would be something like "Albert Einstein on Zionism" and if you click on it, you would end up at http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/Quote/einsteinq.html and it would show a quote by Einstein saying: “Zionism springs from an even deeper motive than Jewish suffering. It is rooted in a Jewish spiritual tradition whose maintenance and development are for Jews the basis of their continued existence as a community.” [One might notice there the absence of any citation or reference, which is unusual. One possibility is that they want you to know about the quotation, but not the context of it. Or, the very source might have other information damaging to the interest of Zionism.2]

Thus, it's hardly surprising that many Muslims, in general, and Arab Muslims, in particular, not only endorse that media touted distortion/MYTH but some would even go further to condemn him. Zionist forces are just that powerful and effective. On one hand I was prompted to add a little bit more to my personal research on the relationship between Einstein and Zionism, attributed by those who seek to capitalize on his fame for their partisan/nationalist goal; on the other, between Einstein and racism flung by those who’d like to condemn him as "racist," due to his ties to Zionism. 

I was disturbed by some messages on Bangladeshi forums, except Shetubondhon, pointing to him as "racist" and "Zionist". Since the message has already appeared on several forums, no need to have it posted again on Shetubondhon. Regardless, characterization of Einstein as "racist" or "Zionist" may simply showcase the Zionist media's effectiveness in sustaining the MYTH.

As a Muslim I seek no misinformation, ill-information, or ignorance about my faith. Of course, I have a better chance of expecting it from others, if others can expect no less from me as a Muslim. Furthermore, as a Muslim I am also duty-bound to act consistently in regard to others - Jews, Christians, Hindus, Agnostics, or Atheists.

O ye who believe!
stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do. [al-Qur'an/4/an-Nisa/135]

Hence I wanted to avail of this opportunity after seeing recent discussions referring to Einstein, by contributing some material online to set the record straight. I did not find any material online that challenges the long sustained MYTH about Einstein. Yet based on my previous readings I remembered him differently. 

I am in no way an expert in this field. I have not even studied the pertinent topics as much as I could. However, based on what I have assembled (at the end of this article) from a Jewish scholar, Dr. Lillienthals' monumental and authoritative book "The Zionist Connection: What Price Peace?", one might be able to form a better perspective. If anyone should have pertinent information, I hope they’d share it. 

Albert Einstein was a great humanist. Did his humanism conflict with his contribution to the making of the Atom bomb, the most colossal weapon of mass destruction? This question may forever remain unsettled. If someone should evaluate him on that basis alone, the option is there. I too have serious reservation about the link. But scientists don’t always have complete control over a theory related to a field of knowledge, and the potential scientific and technological possibilities that it may engender. How to balance the issues may well be an ongoing ethical and policy concern.

Einstein was avowedly agnostic and secular, but he did reflect on religion that is worth understanding and appreciating. He did not believe in any religion, not even Judaism. However, in light of the way some adherents of religions, including but certainly not limited to Muslims, have perverted their faiths, contrary to the teachings off their divine inspiration, it is little surprise so many people are turned off by religion. As a Muslim I, based soundly and surely on my own faith, respect the rights of adherents of other faiths as well as the rights of those who endorse no specific religion. I have no right to deprecate Einstein’s person just because I am a faithful Muslim and he an agnostic.

I also believe that it is only by offering due respect to and showing appreciation of those who conscientiously turn toward agnosticism/atheism that we help build bridges and develop better mutual understanding.

Religious Feeling in Science

"Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man.... In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is indeed quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive."

Letter to a child who asked if scientists pray, January 24, 1936; Einstein Archive 42-601 [http://condor.stcloudstate.edu/~lesikar/einstein/short.html ]

People, like Einstein, do not belong to any specific country. They are heritage of the entire humanity. Einstein felt it that way. Whether he was an agnostic, or a Jew, or or secularist, I have nothing but respect for him - as being members of this humanity we are tied to the human bond.

Nationalism is an infantile sickness. It is the measles of the human race.
         -- Albert Einstein

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins148877.html 


The Zionist Connection: What Price Peace? 

Alfred Lilienthal
(New York: Middle East Perspectives, 1979)


The following are some quotations from Dr. Lillienthal's book. This 850+ page book is a must reading for anyone desiring to understand the modern media, Middle East, US political apparatus and much more. In the following excerpts, "I" refers to the author, which should be obvious, of course. I have included the numbered citation in the excerpt. However, for the complete text of reference, one needs to read the book which FULLY and thoroughly documents every thing it has mentioned in the book.


"For their part, American Jews have sincerely believed they were safeguarding the very existence of their coreligionists in Israel, never dreaming it was Zionist exclusivism for which they were giving their dollars, political support, and moral aid, and betraying their single loyalty to their own country.

And today, when the thesis of binationalism is raised by Arabs in advancing their rights to a Palestinian state and in calling for a secular pluralistic Israel, the Jews in America see this only as a threat "to destroy the State of Israel." They see no reason why there should be, nor do they believe there can be, a de-Zionization or restructuring of the Israeli state, in line with the universal thesis of Judaism and the thinking of universalists such as Magnes, Buber, Einstein, and others." [p. 152]


I also personally endeavored to set the Times' record straight on one rather important matter--the exploitation of Dr. Albert Einstein by the Zionist movement. When the greatest scientist of our age died on April 18, 1956, at the age of seventy-six, the Times in the course of its eulogy referred to "Israel, whose establishment as a state he had championed." This "kidnapping" of Einstein for Israel was one of the most extraordinary coups ever perpetrated by any political group anywhere, but with the help of the omnipotent Times anything is possible. The great mathematician had vigorously opposed the creation of the State of Israel, but a myth to the contrary has been widely spawned by the media, and was repeated sixteen years later.

In late March 1972 the New York Times published a series of articles dealing with the life and thought of Albert Einstein as allegedly revealed in the collection of his manuscripts, letters, and other papers, which were to be published by his estate. The third of the series included on the front page a three-column photograph of Einstein with Israeli Premier David Ben-Gurion, and the caption read: "Einstein papers tell of scientist's efforts toward the creation of Israel." The article further referred "to his long efforts in behalf of the creation of a Jewish national state and of his sad refusal" to accept the Presidency upon the death of Chaim Weizmann.

Einstein, despite the Time's incessant recitals to the contrary, clearly opposed the creation of the State of Israel. A clear understanding of the position taken on Palestine by the great mathematician, himself a refugee from Nazi Germany, will not only set the record straight and correct journalistic inaccuracies, but is most relevant to the continuing quest for a just peace in the Middle East.

In his testimony in January 1946 before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, and in answer to the specific question whether refugee settlement in Palestine demanded a Jewish state, Einstein stated: "The State idea is not according to my heart. I cannot understand why it is needed. It is connected with narrow-mindedness and economic obstacles. I believe that it is bad. I have always been against it. He went further to deride the concept of a Jewish commonwealth as an "imitation of Europe, the end of which was brought about by nationalism."

Then, in 1952, in a message to a "Children to Palestine" dinner, Einstein spoke of the necessity of curbing "a kind of nationalism which has arisen in Israel if only to permit a friendly and fruitful co-existence with the Arabs." When this portion of the Einstein message was censored in the organization's press release so as to impart the impression of all-out support Israel, I went to Princeton to seek the Professor's views on the incident. Einstein then told me that he had never been a Zionist and had never favored the creation of the State of Israel.

It was then that he also told me of a significant conversation with Weizman. Einstein had asked him: "What of the Arabs if Palestine were given were given to the Jews?" And Weizman replied: "What Arabs? They are hardly of any consequence."

Einstein referred me to his book Out of My Later Years, published in 1950, in which he had expanded on his philosophy: "I should much rather see a reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together than the creation of a Jewish state. Apart from practical considerations, my awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish state with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power, no matter how modest. I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain."45

In subsequent years he vigorously supported many Israeli cultural activities, in particular the Hebrew University and the Weizman Institute, to which he was deeply dedicated. According to biographer Dr. Philip Frank, the professor had a "good hearted weakness" and was hesitant to rebuke Zionists for their frequent manipulations of his views and unauthorized use of his name in order to enhance their prestige and fill their political Zionism helped confuse the American press.

In his modest manner, he publicly declined the Israeli Presidency, as Weizmann's successor, on the given grounds that he was not qualified in the area of human relationships. But, in fact, that acceptance of high office in nationalist Israel was hardly in keeping with the basic philosophy of this great humanist and universalist.

Attempts to tie the renowned scientist to political Zionism continued. First there were the welter of public tributes from Israeli and Zionist leaders, published at the time of his death. And two weeks later in a story prominently published by the Times, the Israeli Consul in New York claimed that Einstein had been preparing a laudatory speech for nationwide television in commemoration of the seventh anniversary of Israel. Not only was the evidence of Einstein's Zionist intent scarcely substantiated, but it was in direct conflict with the professor's last statement about the Israeli state, given in an interview with Dorothy Schiff, pro-Israel publisher of the New York Post. She quoted him as saying: "We had great hopes for Israel at first. We thought that it might be better than other nations, but it is no better."46

In the third of its articles on Einstein, the Times nevertheless repeated the myth of his support of the creation of Israel without indicating any new proof. Were the good professor alive today, there is every reason to believe that he would be in the forefront of those condemning the deprivation of the rights of the Palestinian Arabs. As far back as January 28, 1930, Einstein had warned in the Palestinian newspaper Falastin that "oppressive nationalism must be conquered" and that he could "see a future for Palestine only on the basis of peaceful cooperation between the two peoples who are at home in the country . . . come together they must in spite of all." And from the outset he had fully supported the idea of Dr. Judah Magnes, President of Hebrew University, of an Arab-Jewish binational state. In a letter to the Times with Rabbi Leo Baeck of Germany, he wrote: "Besides the fact that they [Magnes and his followers] speak for a much wider circle of inarticulate people, they speak in the name of principles which have been the most significant contribution of the Jewish people to humanity." Such statements are hardly consonant with the Times' allegation of the scientist's support of the creation of a Zionist state.

The Times revival of this Einstein mythology led me to call Op-Ed page editor Harrison E. Salisbury and suggest that it would be appropriate for him to run a piece presenting the true views of the learned scientist on this subject. Although every type of opinion has been presented on this important page. Salisbury refused to commission such an article, as is customarily done. He stated he would be happy to look at the finished product if it were written on speculation.

Even this I did, and here is his letter rejecting the article, the substance of which has been set forth in the above pages:

"I'm sorry to say that we decided against your article concerning Professor Einstein. As I told you when we discussed this matter on the telephone, I was dubious about the idea of elaborating on this particular aspect of Dr. Einstein's career, and I confess on reading the article my feeling was strengthened. You may feel that I overstate the case, but it would seem to the casual reader like myself that Dr. Einstein's views, as one might expect, underwent a series of changes over the years and the picture does not come out so strongly in your article as to compel its publication."

How possibly could any subsequent Einstein "change over the years" -- and his basic attitude toward political Zionism never altered on iota--affect what he did or did not do about the creation of Israel, an act which took place in 1948? The cultural Zionism in which Einstein believed was a far cry from Jewish nationalism embodied in the Zionist State of Israel, which he decried to his very death in 1956. [pp. 340-343]


Congressman John F. Kennedy from Massachusetts wired the Chairman of the Committee (that organized the reception for Menachem Begin), author Louis Bromfield: "Belatedly and for the record I wish to withdraw my name from the reception committee for Menachem Begin, former Irgun Commander. When accepting your invitation, I was ignorant of the true nature of his activities, and I wish to be disassociated from them completely." The office of Congressman Joe Hendricks of Florida revealed that the congressman had been out of town and thus his name "mistakenly" had been given to the Begin Committee. Several other Congressmen could not recall later whether they, or their office, had ever authorized the use of their names. Dr. Harry C. Byrd, President of the University of Maryland, said: "Some people I know asked me if they could use my name as a member of the reception committee and I said they could. I didn't know who he was. I am not going to New York." And so it went--after the damage had been done.

Albert Einstein, Sidney Hook, Hannah Arendt, and Seymour Milman were among the signatories to this letter, which appeared in the Times on December 4, 1948.

Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our time is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the "Freedom Party" . . . a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy, and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist right-wing chauvinist organization in Palestine.

The current visit of Menachem Begin, leader of this party, to the United States is obviously calculated to give the impression of American support for his party in the coming Israeli elections, and to cement political ties with conservative Zionist elements in the United States. Several Americans of national repute have lent their names to welcome his visit. It is inconceivable that those who opposed fascism throughout the world, if currently informed as to Mr. Begin's political record and perspectives, could add their names and support to the movement he represents . . . A shocking example was their behavior in the Arab village of Deir Yassin . . . this incident exemplified the character and actions of the Freedom Party. Within the Jewish community they have preached an admixture of ultra-nationalism, religious mysticism, and racial superiority. Like other fascist parties, they have been used to break strikes, and have themselves pressed for the destruction of free trade unions.

The discrepancies between the bold claims now being made by Begin and his party, and their record of past performance in Palestine, bear the imprint of no ordinary political party. This is the unmistakable stamp of a Fascist party for whom terrorism (against Jews, Arabs, and British alike) and misrepresentation are means, and a "Leader State" is the goal.

In the light of the foregoing consideration, it is imperative that the truth about Mr. Begin and his movement be made known in this country. It is all the more tragic that the top leadership of American Zionism has refused to campaign against Begin's efforts, or even to expose to its own constituents the dangers to Israel of support to Begin. The undersigned therefore take the means publicly presenting a few salient facts concerning Begin and his party, and of urging all concerned not to support this latest manifestation of fascism." [pp. 352-353]

Notes:

45. Albert Einstein: Out of My Later Years (New York, Philosophical Library, 1950), p. 263.

46. New York Post, March 13, 1955. The New York World-Telegram on his death April 18, 1956, referred to him as "an ardent Zionist." Among a full page of pictures in the Scripps-Howard paper was one showing the late professor buying the 200,000th State of Israel bond.


Endnotes:

  1. This has changed since the writing and availability of this article online.
  2. Recently, the citation has been added. Probably, someone pointed them out the lapse and it has been addressed. The citation wasn't there when this article was originally written.

Additional reading:

  1. The 1948 Letter of some Eminent Jews to New York Times (Albert Einstein was one of the signatories condemning the Fascist and Nazi-like nature of the new State of Israel)
  2. Letter to the Editor of the Palestinian Arab Newspaper "Falastin" [January 28, 1930]
  3. Excerpt from 'Subtle is the Lord...': The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein.
  4. Criticism of the above essay in a Letter by Dr. Colin Shindler (University of London) in The Independent
  5. My response sent to the Independent on October 12, 2005
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The above article has been mentioned or cited in:

  1. Kim Petersen. "A Myth Exposed: Albert Einstein Was Not a Zionist" [Dissident Voice, May 1, 2003]

  2. Road to Peace 

  3. Whistle Stopper

  4. History Channel Forum

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