Your Aug. 15 obituary of Washington lobbyist Maurice Rosenblatt made only a passing reference to the time when he "rallied support on Capitol Hill for the new state of Israel in the late 1940s."
In my many interviews with Rosenblatt, he made it clear he regarded his Jewish activism as one of the most important aspects of his career.
Beginning in 1945, three years before Israel's creation, Rosenblatt worked to mobilize congressional support for bringing Holocaust survivors to what was then known as Mandatory Palestine, which the British had closed off, and establishing a Jewish state. He served as the chief Washington lobbyist for the American League for a Free Palestine, better known as the Bergson Group, which used unorthodox tactics to rouse public opinion -- including hundreds of full-page newspaper ads (authored by the fiery Ben Hecht) and a stirring Broadway play called "A Flag Is Born," starring a young Marlon Brando.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, I was able to obtain more than 1,000 pages of documents pertaining to the FBI's surveillance of Rosenblatt and his colleagues. The documents revealed that the State Department, angered by the Bergson Group's criticism of the U.S. response to the Holocaust and British policy in Palestine, prevailed upon the FBI to find evidence that could be used to shut down Bergson's activities. The FBI planted informants in the group, opened its leaders' mail and even sifted through their trash, searching for links to communism or to Jewish militants fighting the British in Palestine.
One internal FBI report made much of the fact that "Rosenblatt and his Russian-born mother were registered members of the American Labor Party."
Another spoke of Rosenblatt's connection to the left-wing Coordinating Committee for Democratic Action, which the FBI derided as "a Semitic Committee" that was trying to "smear" Nazi sympathizers.
But no smoking guns were uncovered, and in the end there was nothing that could be done legally to stop the Bergson Group.
When I showed Rosenblatt the documents about the FBI spying on him, he was not in the least bit surprised. "When people get desperate, they can stoop pretty low," he told me. "The State Department and the British were desperately defending an indefensible policy -- shutting the Jews out of Palestine -- and we wouldn't let them."
-- Rafael Medoff
Melrose Park, Pa.
The writer is director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.