The Corner

Dizzy Izzy

From Sol Stern’s WSJ review (no free link) of those new I.F. Stone books:

After the war, Stone became a passionate advocate for the creation of a Jewish state. He traveled to Palestine on one of the illegal ships filled with survivors of the Holocaust and wrote a popular series of articles for PM about his experience. They later became a book called “Underground to Palestine.” Soon he went back to the Mideast to cover Israel’s War of Independence and then wrote another book titled “This Is Israel.”

You wouldn’t know about “This Is Israel” from Ms. MacPherson’s account; she doesn’t mention it or even list it in her bibliography of Stone’s books. Anyone who reads “This Is Israel” will see why it creates problems for the Stone fan club. It is, hands down, the most pro-Zionist reportage of the 1948 war. Stone describes the Jews as having the only morally defensible position in the conflict. He hardly mentions the issue of Palestinian refugees; he makes it clear that the seven invading Arab armies were bent on eliminating the entire Jewish presence in Palestine.

Addressing Stone’s thinking about Israel’s early days, Ms. MacPherson focuses exclusively on the earlier

“Underground to Palestine,” stressing one sentence there in which Stone speculates about the possibility of a Jewish-Arab binational state as a way of avoiding future bloodshed. Stone said many years later that American Zionist leaders urged him to remove that sentence from the book; when he refused, he allegedly lost out on a promised $50,000 advertising campaign.

By emphasizing this story with a dramatic retelling and leaving out “This Is Israel,” Ms. MacPherson can seem to show a continuity between Stone’s views in 1948 — pro-Israel but prophetically concerned for Jewish-Arab relations — and the blame-Israel stance he took 20 years later.

But there is a contradiction between the Stone who wrote the passionately pro-Zionist “This Is Israel” and the Stone who later composed jeremiads about Israeli “racism” and insensitivity to the plight of Palestinian refugees. Of course, everyone is allowed to change his mind. What was missing from Stone during his lifetime was some candor about what made him swerve so radically from one view of Israel to another. But when we think back on Stone’s Soviet boosterism, even during the worst of Stalin’s crimes, we are reminded that candor was not always his strong suit.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

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