a flag is bornToday marks the 60th anniversary of the opening of a play in which a 22 year old Marlon Brando played a holocaust survivor screaming out to the largely Jewish audience “You Jews of America! Where was your cry of rage that could have filled the world and stopped the fires?”

The controversial and emotional A Flag is Born was put on Broadway in 1946 when such questions struck fear into the heart of many a Jew. When the state of Israel was not yet established, and few were the American Jews petitioning on it’s behalf for fear of accusations of dual loyalty.

Notably, the play is a product of Oscar winner Ben Hecht, a firm believer in revisionist Zionism who then went on to write Perfidy, an appalling expose of the early days of the Israeli establishment and Jewish-nazi collaboration which I have never been able to bring myself to read.

Hearing deafening silence of the American Jewish response during the Holocaust, Hecht joined the Bergson Group, a “New York-based activist group that lobbied for the rescue of Jewish refugees and the creation of a Jewish state. ” They did such things as taking out full page ads in NY papers saying ” ‘FOR SALE: 70,000 JEWS AT $50 APIECE GUARANTEED HUMAN BEINGS’ explaining that three and a half million dollars would rescue the then trapped Romanian Jews”

The play which is comprised of three holocaust survivors’ conversations in a graveyard ends with a raising of an Israeli flag fashioned from a now-dead man’s tallis. The scene apparently sent chills through the audience.

In any case, be sure read the jpost article on it, including famed Hollywood director Sydney Lumet’s quote towards the end.

About the author

Laya Millman

5 Comments

  • Please read Perfidy. There’s so much perfidious happening here today that everyone should learn from history’s past examples.

  • damn, Laya. jewish/nazi collaboration? that’s crazy talk. Read perfidy? That’s illegal in Israel! What benfit could anybody have from reading illegal books? nothing, that’s what.

    Seriously though, you might have to return you idealist zionist card now, just for having mentioned it.

  • a) I assume you’re joking about it being illegal
    b) You’d be wise to develop a sense of complexity
    c) Don’t believe everything you hear from Mobius about my views on Israel. He tends to see things in blacks and whites.

  • I don’t know if Perfidy is still illegal in Israel but apparently it once was.

    I heard when it was first published, the government (police? GSS?) sent out agents to buy up or confiscate copies because it was so scandalous and damning.

  • you can get it in used book stores all across Jerusalem now, so apparently the ban has lapsed.

    I didn’t know that complexity was a sense. How DOES complexity feel?

    But yeah, don’t confuse my snarky tone with dualistic naivety or right vs. left delusions of oneside-correctness, it’s more an expression of whoa! something genuinely subversive and dare-I-say potentially deepish in Jewlicious! It’s from pride and idea-snobbery that my sarcasm cometh, spooging approval and hoping to tease more substance out of this cute as a button little rag-a-zine, still brimming with potential for surprises after all these soft long years.

    Laya, you and Michael are the only reasons I check this site as regularly as I do– Ok fine, CK too, lovingly light, fun-poking though always with a grain of universal invitation to friendship and culture-cute as his posts are, although if it was only him, probably not as often.

    I kinda miss what promise of nuance and humorously bouncy but piercing depth that I feel like was alot of what you wanted to do with this site when it first started– not that it doesn’t come alot every so often here, only that i experience That as less than the bulk of the discourse, alas and alack.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with pop-fun-party talk, just not as interesting to my gentle fighting wit most ‘the time. Seeing hints to the evils of the Tzi-oi-neem come up here feels like when someone I know gets mentioned on a tv show
    I just happen to be watching.

    But yeah, what we call zionism can mean alot of different things, and for me, in alot of ways, the term itself is polluted by the anti-judaic messianic hopes of Hertzl and Ben Gurion, the crimes and violence that the state pushes on it’s own people to quell CERTAIN dissents and beat weakness out of the out of her reviled step-children.

    There’s a strong taiva I have to want a different word for the love of Israel that satmar chassidim, birthright awe-monkeys and academic idealists, and shtachim youfs carry, what they(that is, we) want to do with the land, as opposed to the politcal crimes justified in the name of our defense, but maybe more about, on the kaf zchus side, panic, on the kaf Chiuv side, power and money, dick wagging and national Ego wound. Prof. R. Menachem Kallus likes to say, though I believe in the right to jewish self determination in the land of Israel, I ain’t no freakin’ Zionist! I don’t feel like a revisionist per se’ either, although bringing redemption sounds soo tempting.

    God have mercy on us all.

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