Breadcrumbs

Articles on Left-wing Anti-Semitism

 

One of the most disappointing trends in the past several decades has been the enthusiasm of many far left currents and organizations for Third World dictators, right-wing jihadi theocrats, and other such enemies of bearable human societies. I cannot help but recall that it was policies like this by the American government that in my youth drew me to the left in revulsion. The lodestone of this politics is a compass that always points to the United States as the preeminent evil in the world. Running a close second, however, is an obsessive hatred of Israel and by extension the great majority of the comparatively small number of Jews left on the planet, who are sympathetic to the Jewish state. To say this will immediately elicit the outcry, "You supporters of Israel just brand anybody who criticizes Israel as an anti-Semite to stifle any discussion of Israel's crimes."

I am a critic of Israel. I think the settlements should be dismantled, and deplore the turn of the Israeli electorate to the current right wing government. However, a large part of the far left, and its predecessors in the Soviet Union in the postwar period who invented that particular argument, have as their criticism that the state of Israel has no right to exist, or see only Israel's crimes but celebrate rockets and suicide bombers as liberation fighters. How intolerant of criticism you are! Just because I hail the people who say they want to kill you, or who circulate Nazi propaganda against you, you fling the anti-Semitism charge at me.

 

The anti-Israel line in its modern form originated in the postwar anti-Semitic campaigns of the Stalin regime in the Soviet Union, and its successors, intensifying after the June War of 1967 in which Israel miraculously survived an attack by three of its far larger Arab neighbors while the left favored an Arab victory with the avowed aim of destroying the Jewish state and expelling the Jews from the region.

 

A broader historical view would reveal that the socialist and Marxist movements were at their inception strongly anti-Semitic, viewing Jews as alien to European societies and emblematic of hated commercial relations that these groups despised. Marx in his famous article "On the Jewish Question" promised that Jews, who he defined collectively as "hucksters," would cease to exist after the socialist revolution. Proudhon, founder of French socialism and remembered for his aphorism that "Property is theft," prefigured Hitler by calling repeatedly for the physical extermination of the Jews. In this sense, while the far left opposed anti-Semitism when it came from their bitter enemies on the fascist right, and commonly defended assimilationist Jews as individuals, the movement in most of its branches historically has been a consistent and bitter opponent of Jewish nationalism, treating it as an enemy worthy of physical destruction. There was a period in the early years of the last century when there was a plausible argument between Marxists and the Jewish nationalists known as Zionists over the Marxist premise that the nation state was a reactionary hangover from the past and it was a bad idea to try to start a new one. Clearly the world has not validated the leftist position in that debate. Nations are more plentiful and stronger than ever. There is little vituperation from the socialist left aimed at an independent Armenia, or demands that the Armenians renounce their little state and content themselves to live in a democratic secular Turkey. Or denunciation of the various and highly nationalistic states that emerged from the collapse of Yugoslavia. Those examples could be multiplied many fold. Yet there is a pustulant malice at the idea that Jews, most of them natives of the region who were ethnically cleansed by Arab anti-Semites, should dare to have their own state, or have any legitimacy in their embittered struggle with the Palestinians and their allies.

 

As in many struggles over territory and national identity there are crimes and wrongful acts committed on both sides. The far left sees only those of the Jews. That is at the heart of the toxic attitude toward Judaism that has infected the far left from its inception and which it inherited but never reexamined from the anti-Semitic culture of Christian Europe over two millenia.

 

For those who would want to look more closely at this topic, or who may react in denial, I would suggest sampling some of the articles in the website entitled Left Wing Anti-Semitism A good starting point is David Cesarani's piece, "The Left and the Jews."