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Moshe Sneh (Kleinbaum)

(1909 – 1972)

Moshe Sneh (Kleinbaum) was an Israeli politician and publicist, member of the First to Fifth, and Seventh Knessets. Born in Radzyn, Poland, Sneh received a traditional Jewish education and then graduated from the University of Warsaw in medicine. He took part in the Jewish students’ movement in Poland and belonged to the “radical” wing of the General Zionists led by Yitzhak Gruenbaum.

In 1935, he was one of the founders of the General Zionists A. After the outbreak of World War II he managed to flee from Warsaw to Vilna and from there to Palestine, where he settled in 1940. Sneh was co-opted to the Haganah command, becoming chief of the national command in 1941.

After World War II, Sneh was one of the protagonists of the violent struggle against the British anti-Zionist policy and the British Administration in Palestine and, in 1945, joined the Jewish Agency Executive. On June 29, 1946 (Black Saturday), he managed to escape arrest and left clandestinely for Europe. As he objected to the restriction of the struggle against the British, he resigned from his post as chief of the Haganah command.

At the end of 1946, he was appointed head of the European Political Branch of the Jewish Agency, and head of the Illegal Immigration Department in it. Around the time of the publication of the UN partition plan, at the end of 1947, Sneh underwent an ideological change that led to his resignation from the Jewish Agency Executive and his joining the newly formed Mapam Party in 1948 as a member of its more extreme Left wing.

He was elected to the First Knesset in 1949 on the Mapam list, but following the Slansky trial in Prague left the party in February 1952 and formed the Left Faction with two other former Mapam members, later joining the Israel Communist Party (Maki) in November 1954. In his book Sikkumim ba-She’elah ha-Le’ummit: Le-Or ha-Marksizm-Leninizm (“Conclusions concerning the Jewish Problem in the Light of Marxism-Leninism”), which he published in 1954, Sneh explained the change in his political views.

When the Arab members and some of the Jewish members of the Israel Communist Party broke away to form Rakah, Sneh remained in Maki, which was now predominantly Jewish, and became editor of its daily Kol Ha’am – a position he held until 1969.

After the Six-Day War, he became increasingly critical of the anti-Israel policy of the Soviet Union, supporting negotiations between Israel and the Arab states while insisting on the Palestinian right for self-determination in the territories occupied by Israel during the Six-Day War.

Among his other publications are Li-Ve’ayot ha-Komunizm, ha-Demokratyah ve-ha-Am ha-Yehudi: Rashei Perakim (“The Problems of Communism, Democracy and the Jewish People: Headings,” 1968); Aḥarit ki-Bereishit: Mivḥar Devarim 196772 (“The End like the Beginning: A Selection of Speeches, 1967–1972,” 1982); and Ketavim (“Writings”), edited by Emanuel Melter, in four volumes (1995–2002).

Moshe’s son Ephraim (1944– ), a physician who served in the IDF until 1987, reaching the rank of brigadier general, served in the Knesset on behalf of the Labor Party from 1992 and served as minister of health from April 1994 until after the elections to the Fourteenth Knesset in 1996. In July 1997 he ran against Ehud Barak for the Israel Labor Party leadership, but lost.


B. Balti, Ba-Ma'avak al ha-Kiyyum ha-Yehudi: Li-Demuto shel Moshe Sneh (1981); E. She'alti'el, Tamid be-Meri: Moshe Sneh, Biographyah (2000).

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.