ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

May 29, 2009

2009.05.29: RE: Remembering Bob Zuss on his Birthday (Today)

From: Terry, Stephen
Sent: Friday, May 29, 2009 11:02 AM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: RE: Remembering Bob Zuss on his Birthday (Today)

I cannot disagree with you more.

The originators of Zionism based their concept of the Israeli state upon the expulsion of the Palestinians.  Theodore Herzl, among others, was quite clear about this in his early correspondence.  (Benny Morris, Righteous Victims, private correspondence of T. Herzl).  Herzl was also emphatic that this Zionist requirement of Paliestinian expulsion be carefully hidden from public view.

The Israeli state is a racist, apartheid state.  Ethic cleansing was its foundation and continues to guide it’s evolution.

It is a terrible irony that my people, who the Nazis attempted to ethnically cleanse off the face of the earch, would now, 60 years later, base their existence and survival upon that same unforgiveable concept as applied to the Palestinian people.

From: [R.]
Sent: Thursday, May 28, 2009 3:47 PM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: RE: Remembering Bob Zuss on his Birthday (Today)

Like many here, I too had a fondness and admiration for Bob.  We shared a pride about our Jewish heritage but we did argue (sometimes fiercely) especially on the topic of Israel.  Bob was honest.  He would want a webcite dedicated to his memory that is accurate and honest.  So in that spirit I must correct 3 errors.

Two involve the importance of words and their definitions.  The other involves history.  Below are 2 quotations from the site with which I take issue.  It is overly simplistic and inaccurate to say that Einstein opposed Zionism.  In fact he was one of its most prominent supporters.  An avowed anti-Zionist would not have been asked to be Israel’s 2nd president.  Was he conflicted about the form that Israel would take and about nationalism as it was then defined?  Yes.  But he was also a proud Jew who believed that Jews needed and deserved their own homeland.  The Wikipedia entry at the end of this email conveys some of the complexity painted over by the Zuss website.

As for the definition of Zionism given on the site, it is completely wrong and is motivated by the writer’s politics.  It misstates any conventional notion of the word.  Zionism is NOT about a “Jewish-only state”, nor is it about ethnic cleansing, an offensive notion given the genocide of 1/3 of the world’s Jews in our parents lifetimes by the Nazis.  The near annihilation of all Jews was the ultimate motivation for the UN and the West to provide a homeland for Jews.  Zionism is defined in my American Heritage Dictionary as a “a plan or movement of the Jewish people to return from the Diaspora to Palestine” and “a movement originally aimed at the re-establishment of a Jewish national homeland and state in Palestine and now concerned with the development of Israel.”  For those non-Jews and some peripheral Jews (no offense at all intended), it may not be obvious the place that Israel holds in our hearts and minds.  It is not just a nation.  It is an essential part of our identity, whether or not we are observant Jews or not.  (I don’t know of any perfect analogy to explain it.  You just have to trust that most Jews are offended when there are mass faceless discussions among 1,000 email users — of all stripes and backgrounds — about a place that holds such psychic significance for us.  It is as if you all were talking about my family.)

The second quote at issue uses the term “Israeli apartheid” as if it were some widely recognized convention.  It is not.  Apartheid is an Afrikaner word that was used as the official designation of racial segregation in S. Africa.  Using this word in this context is highly offensive to those who were the subject of this policy in S. Africa and highly offensive to Israelis.  While many would agree that non-Jews in Israel are often treated as second-class citizens, many do serve in prominent positions in government and business.  It is not the official policy in Israel to so discriminate.  In fact, it is the policy of Israel to discriminate against non-Orthodox Jews by, for example, requiring all Jewish weddings to comply with Orthodoxy.  Muslims and Christians may get married however they wish.  This is also partially true for Kosher laws and the Sabbath, laws which do not apply to non-Jews.

Finally, the second quotation below is inaccurate because “apartheid” was never a major point of conflict in the union, as no one, save a few of our members, ever used the term or subscribed to this misusage (Jimmy Carter’s controversial use notwithstanding).  The actual conflict has been between those few who use the ALAA listserv for their own political ends, often to provoke fellow members in an inappropriate manner.  Our membership is a largely pro-civil rights, pro-Israel membership, many of whom are proud Jews who support a safe homeland for Jews that respects the civil rights and self-determination of its Arab brothers.

And like Albert Einstein and other Jews, Zuss opposed Zionism (support for a Jewish-only state in an ethnically-cleansed Palestine) — decades before Jimmy Carter criticized Israeli apartheid.

During the 1991 Gulf War and following 9/11, U.S. wars and Israeli apartheid became major points of conflict within the union — often between pro- and anti-Zionist Jewish members.


Einstein was a socialist Zionist who supported the creation of a Jewish national homeland in the British mandate of Palestine.[66] In 1931, The Macmillan Company published About Zionism: Speeches and Lectures by Professor Albert Einstein.[67] Querido, an Amsterdam publishing house, collected eleven of Einstein’s essays into a 1933 book entitled Mein Weltbild, translated to English as The World as I See It; Einstein’s foreword dedicates the collection “to the Jews of Germany”.[68] In the face of Germany’s rising militarism, Einstein wrote and spoke for peace.

Einstein publicly stated reservations about the proposal to partition the British-supervised British Mandate of Palestine into independent Arab and Jewish countries. In a 1938 speech, “Our Debt to Zionism”, he said: “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—especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks, against which we have already had to fight strongly, even without a Jewish state. … If external necessity should after all compel us to assume this burden, let us bear it with tact and patience.”[71] In a 1947 letter to Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Einstein stated that the Balfour Declaration‘s proposal to establish a national home for Jews in Palestine “redresses the balance” of justice and history.[72]

The United Nations did divide the mandate, demarcating the borders of several new countries including the State of Israel, and war broke out immediately. Einstein was one of the authors of an open letter to the New York Times in 1948 criticizing Menachem Begin‘s Herut (Freedom) Party for the Deir Yassin massacre (Einstein et al. 1948).

Einstein served on the Board of Governors of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In his Will of 1950, Einstein bequeathed literary rights to his writings to The Hebrew University, where many of his original documents are held in the Albert Einstein Archives.[73]

When President Chaim Weizmann died in 1952, Einstein was asked to be Israel’s second president, but he declined, stating that he had “neither the natural ability nor the experience to deal with human beings.” [74] He wrote: “I am deeply moved by the offer from our State of Israel, and at once saddened and ashamed that I cannot accept it. “[75]

From: Letwin, Michael
Sent: Thursday, May 28, 2009 8:22 AM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Remembering Bob Zuss on his Birthday (Today)

This site is about Robert Zuss (1943-2006), who for the final twenty years of his life was a public defender at The Legal Aid Society in New York City.

Zuss helped forge leadership within the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325 (ALAA) that promoted democratic decision-making; membership mobilization conducted jointly with support staff members of 1199SEIU; and racial, economic and social justice — at home and abroad.

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