It was very moving to see David Lomon and fellow International Brigade veteran Thomas Watters laying their wreaths at the International Brigade annual commemoration last weekend, recalling the volunteers for liberty who went to Spain to fight against Franco's forces. However Martin Sugarman’s claim (JC letters 8 July 2011) that Lomon is “the last surviving British-Jewish member of the International Brigade” will come as news to Stepney-born Brigade stalwart Lou Kenton who is approaching his 103rd birthday in a few weeks.
I’m sure that was an honest mistake. but then Sugarman goes on to claim that “the Israelis” per head of population “sent the largest contingent from any nation”, a claim made presumably so that those who support Israel today should feel a vicarious pride in those who courageously volunteered to fight against Franco.
The truth may be less palatable to them. There was no State of Israel in 1936, but there were Jewish immigrants in Palestine. The 300 Jews who went to Spain from that community (of whom 70 were killed) were overwhelmingly Communists who were committed to creating a bi-national state built on workers unity between Jew and Arab – a far cry indeed from the current state of Israel.
Now consider why anyone would seek to misrepresent the identity of those fighting fascism?Moreover, the leaders of the Zionist movement in the Yishuv – left and right – completely disapproved of them going to Spain rather than staying in Palestine to work to create a Jewish state. Zionist leaders coined the phrase “Hanita before Madrid”, referring to a kibbutz that had been established in Northern Palestine. But the volunteers for the International Brigade went anyway, having decided that the fight against international fascism must take precedence. Their conflicted lives have been celebrated in the film “Madrid Before Hanita” made by the Israeli film-maker Eran Torbiner.[links added by me]
More recent anti-fascism here.