A moving, just discovered speech by the immortal Ben Hecht, Jewish warrior
I just read an amazing speech Ben Hecht gave in 1948 at a fundraiser for the Etzel or Irgun, Menachem Begin’s Zionist army in the pre-state years that played a decisive role in forcing the British to finally leave the land of Israel.
The entire text, and the backstory are published in The Jewish Review of Books.
Here’s an excerpt, but the entire address is moving and informative. I urge you to read the whole thing and think about Hecht, and be inspired by his legacy at Pessach.
And what 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.