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J. Edgar Hoover and the Jews

Lawrence Bush
May 9, 2017

J. Edgar Hoover was appointed director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation on this date in 1924, a post that he would hold for more than half a century, accumulating enormous power and prestige. The appointment came five years after Hoover had led the Palmer Raids, an unconstitutional roundup of over six thousand leftwing immigrant activists, including Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, and numerous other Jews, more than two hundred of whom were deported. Hoover is one of the more mythicized figures in American history, with claims about him ranging from African-American ancestry to transvestitism, and some historians have argued that Jewish mobster Meyer Lansky had photographic proof of Hoover’s homosexual dalliances with Clyde Tolson, his second-in-command, and used it to convince Hoover to go soft on organized crime. (Roy Cohn, who served Senator Joseph McCarthy and was himself a closeted gay man, denied this charge, saying, “there were no pictures. Believe me, I looked. . . . there was no sexual relationship. Whatever they did, they did separately, in different rooms, and even then, I’m sure Hoover was fully dressed.”) Better-established facts about Hoover and Jews are these: He helped protect several Nazi war criminals from deportation after World War II and put them to work as informants for the FBI; he established liaisons with offices of the Anti-Defamation League throughout the U.S. in the 1940s and again in the 1960s, at the ADL’s request, to help the FBI monitor Arab groups, anti-apartheid activists, and Jewish communists; he sought to destroy the reputations of Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and several other progressive Jewish scientists. With Jews constituting up to a third of the American Communist Party, it is widely assumed that as fierce an anti-Communist as Hoover was anti-Semitic. In fact, he was far too busy attempting to undermine or destroy the Civil Rights movement and other threats to a white supremacist America to bother much with American Jews.

“The Communist threat from without must not blind us to the Communist threat from within. The latter is reaching into the very heart of America through its espionage agents and a cunning, defiant, and lawless communist party, which is fanatically dedicated to the Marxist cause of world enslavement and destruction of the foundations of our republic.” --J. Edgar Hoover

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.