I.f. Stone: Right About One (big) Thing

by James Kirchick | June 16, 2009

The radical journalist I.F. Stone hasn't received much respect in these parts, due to his covert work on behalf of the Soviet Union in the 1930's (work which Stone's defenders refuse to acknowledge as at all morally compromising, preferring to see it as the laudable aiding of a wartime ally). But as TNR senior editor Adam Kirsch shows in a review of D.D. Guttenplan's new biography of Stone, "Izzy" was an early, eloquent and active Zionist, going so far as to aid the illegal emigration of Jews from post-war European displaced person camps to Palestine. Stone remained a Zionist to his dying day, long after the cause became almost universally unpopular among the crew of fellow-traveling leftists with whom he identified. Stone was also prescient, in a sense rare among Zionists of his day, in his support for a Palestinian state.

Nonetheless, Guttenplan's generous quoting of his subject's stale anti-Americanism and rather embarrassing paens to Communists unwittingly renders his biography "a complete demolition of Stone’s claim to political judgment," as, "to any fair-minded reader...what Guttenplan’s book shows is how badly Stone chose his comrades, and how easy it is to mix up true ideals with dangerous and damaging illusions." But on the cause of Jewish nationalism, at least, Stone didn't lose sight of noble ideals. 

Kirsch's excellent review provides me with an opportunity to recommend the new website where it appears: Tablet Magazine, a daily, online journal of Jewish life, ideas, culture and politics. It's blog, The Scroll, posts content both high and middlebrow, and the site boasts a masthead of distinguished contributors like Jeffrey Goldberg, Adam LeBor, Deborah Lipstadt, Jonathan Mahler and Seth Lipsky. This isn't your Bubbie's Jewish website, and even if you don't have a Bubbie, I'm sure you'll find plenty of interesting content. 

--James Kirchick 

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