I first saw this at Caroline Glick’s site, but she quotes only part of it.
In these dark centuries that have never ended—the Jews carried the dream of Israel in their hearts. The Hebrew Nation of David and the Kings had been hammered to bits—but the bits refused to die. Every Jewish poet, every rabbi, and every worker at his bench kept alive this dream. In Spain after a thousand years of torment—the Jews still sang of their Jerusalem and their Holy Land. Jehuda Halevy [sic], the Hebrew poet of Spain, wrote of a homeland no Jew had seen for a thousand years:
Jerusalem, oh City of Splendor, oh bright home of the Jews—our spirit flies to you from many lands. In the East—in the far land of the cedar and the lemon trees our hearts lie. And our souls dwell beside the sun gone down on Israel.
The sun is no longer down. A champion fights in Palestine. He will not surrender. But he calls on us. He needs us.
If he loses, he will lose because we did not put a gun in his hand.
He will lose because we—and not he—were too small for the hour of Jewish destiny.
He will lose because the Jews of the world dreamed away the days of battle.
But these are only words I speak—words to wake up Jews if there are any asleep. He will not lose. No cause that had behind it the sweet and powerful dream of freedom—has ever lost. This dream does not stand on the battlefields alone. It stands in us.
There are twenty-eight million Arabs. There are British wealth and British officers—and British military equipment. There are eight hundred thousand Jews—besieged and encircled by this Goliath tonight.
A David stands against Goliath. I ask you Jews—buy him a stone for his slingshot.
Some background: that was Hollywood screenwriter, Ben Hecht, at an LA fundraiser for Menachem Begin’s Irgun fighters. As the introduction to the piece explains, the event was hosted by notorious LA gangster, Mickey Cohen. It cleared $200,000 (probably).
What I love about it is the language. Pithy, punchy, straight out of Hollywood dialogue of the 30s and 40s. Alone or with Charles McArthur, credited or uncredited, he worked on some of the greatest films from Hollywood’s Golden Age.
[W]hat have we American Jews to gain by the triumph of the Jewish nation now battling in Palestine? We are a happy people in the U.S.A. But we are happy as Americans, not as Jews. Not entirely happy—as Jews. The slaughter of our kind in Europe has left a wound in our spirits that our victory as Americans in the war has not entirely healed. It is a Jewish wound kept always open by the fear of the future. And despite the honors and positions we have won in America, we are no different as Jews than our fathers and grandfathers in Europe. We are like them, as Jews—uncertain, despairing, disenchanted, and always singing ourselves to sleep with the happy news that we have friends in court.
The Jews have always had friends in court—but they have never won a verdict. They have been always a noise without power, a talent without roots, a homelover without a doorstep of their own. They have worn fine clothes—and remained a fine nobody. They have always been going somewhere—but they have come from nowhere. And a man who comes from nowhere is a lesser man than one who comes from a place. There is always mystery and suspicion about such a man.
The nationalized soul of every nation, however civilized, abhors instinctively the nationalistic vacuum out of which the Jew is perpetually emerging. Having no land of his own, the Jew is looked on as a man who would—if given the chance—usurp the land of his host.
This has been true even of our own melting pot—a pot in which every immigrant has fused away his antecedents—except the Jew. A man from Sweden, Ireland, Luxemburg, Hungary, Italy—as soon as he loses the accents of those places—can become an American without suspicion or hyphen attached to him. The Jew, with or without accent—can become only an American Jew.
This is part of our stake in Palestine. A Jewish nation will remove our mystery and give us origins and permit us to thrive in the world—on an equal footing with other nationals. We can paradoxically become American then—for we will not be carrying around in our souls the confusion of what we are—and spreading this confusion among our always easily confused neighbors.
And we will not seem like the remnant of some stubborn religious sect given to weird and alien religious practices. Without losing our religion we will lose our two-thousand-year-old dangerous identity as religious fanatics—an absurd identity, but an identity ready made for the devilish schemes of bigots and rabble rousers; an identity that has brought intolerance and disaster down on us. We will lose that identity, for the land of Israel will have a flag, an army, and a congress to prove we are like other people—and that we stem from a normal state and not be black magic out of a hole in the past.
Just look at the news from Kansas City to see how relevant that position is today.
But there is a stake beyond these stakes of convenience and aggrandizement that we Jews have in the battle for Palestine. Is that battle lost—we Jews, all of us, are lost for another seven generations. We will have made our bid for human national status—whether we helped or hid our heads in a bag—and if this bid fails we will become a gabby and empty people, a gabby and defeated people—more so than ever in our history.
We will become losers. And this name will track us down in every city and village of America—and fasten itself to us. Not losers of a war—every nation has had that tag on it, but losers of the right to exist as anything but what we have been—the dubious guest in the house. If our bid for a flag and a homeland fails, we will all of us stand guilty before the world of an unworthiness. And this unworthiness we will, for a change, have deserved—if it comes to us. It is our duty to see that it does not come to us. It is in our power to prevent its coming. We will win—if the long dreaming soul of the Jew is wakened.
Hecht was not always a Zionist, but he was always a writer. This speech was lost to posterity until only recently:
Tucked amid the Ben Hecht Papers at the Newberry Library in Chicago is an undated typescript of 21 pages, with a penciled heading: “Speech at dinner at Slapsy Maxie’s, L.A., financed by Mickey Cohen.” Hecht was, of course, a fabled writer for stage and screen, Mickey Cohen was the notorious Los Angeles gangland boss (recently portrayed by Sean Penn in the movie Gangster Squad), and the speech, which has never before been published, is one of the most riveting and remarkable Jewish fundraising speeches ever delivered. What gives?
What gives is that an LA (Jewish) mob boss held a fundraiser for the nascent state of Israel at a joint he (mostly) owned (fronted by the washed-up—Jewish—boxer of the name), at the behest of a (Jewish) Hollywood scribbler who penned some of the most iconic movies in history (and who often had to work anonymously to avoid British boycotts of his movies).
Is this a great country, or what? (Was. Was a great country.) I have more faith today in the Israel Hecht imagines than in the America I see.