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Chomsky and Hashomer Hatzair

Chomsky did have direct contact (through many of his friends) and even a loose affiliation with another group that was related to Avukah: Hashomer Hatzair. Unlike Avukah, this group was still active when Chomsky arrived at the University of Pennsylvania. It still exists today. As a graduate student, Chomsky was sympathetic to the commitment Hashomer Hatzair had made to support socialist binationalism in Palestine and kibbutz values.

He has said that although he "was never a member of any group," he was "fairly close to . . . Hashomer Hatzair, but couldn't join because it was split between Stalinists and Trotskyites and I very strongly disagreed with both of them on Marxism-Leninism" (31 Mar. 1995). The organization was founded in Lemberg, Poland, in 1917. According to Norman Epstein, "Hashomer Hatzair was a strong, well-organized Zionist-Socialist youth movement in Europe [and] North and South America which prepared young Jewish boys and girls for life on a kibbutz in Palestine (later, Israel), expedited their immigration and integration into a kibbutz (`making aliyah') and later became the main component of the Zionist left-wing political party in Israel ­ MAPAM (which is now part of the coalition known as Meretz)" (15 Dec. 1994).

Hashomer Hatzair's similarities to Avukah are obvious. The two groups also interacted; Avukah, for example, distributed pamphlets (such as Youth Amidst Ruins) for Hashomer Hatzair from its office in New York City. However, while Avukah was concentrated within American college campuses, Hashomer Hatzair had (and continues to enjoy) strong working-class ties and an international profile.





Warsaw Ghetto (historical essay)

Zellig Harris, though not a member of Hashomer Hatzair, had contact with its members, as did Seymour Melman and Norman Epstein; Sam Abramovitch was the director of the Montreal-area branch. Members of the organization played important roles in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising against the Nazis in 1943, and former members went on to undertake important intellectual and political work.

There seem to have been differences between the branches of Hashomer Hatzair. Like Chomsky, Epstein recollects that "the membership of Hashomer Hatzair and subsequently MAPAM was various in its ideology, but the leadership for a long time was Leninist and even Stalinist (except when Stalin showed anti-Semitic tendencies or was explicitly anti-Zionist)" (15 Dec. 1994). He further remembers that "around 1942 there was a short-lived Left Jewish Youth Alliance in Montreal, consisting of Avukah, the Outremont Cooperative Commonwealth Youth Movement (ie. ccf Youth), Hashomer Hatzair, and ex-members of Hashomer Hatzair" (20 Apr. 1995).

Abramovitch, on the other hand, recalls no such political affiliation in the Montreal branch, suggesting that it upheld ostensibly Zionist socialist ideals, and citing its connection with the anti-Stalinist Second-and-a-Half International. This particular International is little known, although its members, according to Epstein, included a number of influential groups, such as "Hashomer Hatzair, the Austrian Socialists, the Independent Labour Party in Britain and, I believe, the Sozialistische Arbeiter Partei of Germany, which broke away from the Social Democratic Party around 1930" (20 Apr. 1995). Chomsky himself had no contact with the Montreal group: "I knew the people in Philadelphia and New York mostly. Remember, in those days people of our income level rarely traveled anywhere. I didn't get to West Philadelphia until I went to Penn, and regarded Gettysburg as far West" (15 Dec. 1994).

Whatever ideological differences existed between the branches of Hashomer Hatzair, its various members and associates worked to increase working-class participation in the organization itself, to encourage emigration to its affiliated kibbutzim in Israel (notably Kibbutz Artzi), and to promulgate communist ideals for Israeli kibbutzim. Hashomer Hatzair was particularly active in Europe, where anti-Semitism was well entrenched and menacing. Like Avukah ­ and indeed like Chomsky (from a Jewish perspective) and Edward Said (from a Palestinian perspective) ­ Hashomer Hatzair believed in Arab-Jewish cooperation, first in Palestine and then in Israel. An example of this kind of cooperation is given in a report issued by the League for Arab-Jewish Rapprochement and relayed in an April 1942 Avukah Student Action article. According to the article, the Kibbutz Artzi, of the National Federation of Hashomer Hatzair, recently started activity which is significant in establishing contact with neighboring Arab villages. The Kibbutz Artzi has organized courses to train agents who will establish contact with Arab villages that are near Kibbutzim . . . [and who will] seek to strengthen favorable attitudes to Zionism among Arabs. Some 300 are now taking courses which teach Arabic, Arab customs, and Arab community life. It is hoped that about one-seventh of the Arab village communities will be reached by workers trained in these courses.


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