[This article is about anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist discourses on the left of the political spectrum (usually referred to as ‘the Left’). More specifically, it focuses on gentile hatred/fear of the Jews and the State of Israel. It is not my intention to examine the Israeli Left, which is far less anti-Zionist than its European and American counterparts. It is also beyond the scope of this paper to look at the various socialist philosophies of Jewish intellectuals in the 1920 and 1930s, some of whom were Zionists. Finally, the strange phenomena of Jewish self-hatred espoused by people like Gilad Atzmon is not discussed.]
“With their own nationalisms off limit, many Europeans […] embrace vicariously the nationalisms of others – particularly Palestinian nationalism, which, in its most radical versions, allowed Europeans to reconnect with a discredited strand of European nationalism, anti-Semitism.” (Christopher Caldwell, Reflections on the Revolution in Europe)
“[The Left is] indulging anti-Semites to an extent that is alarming and dangerous.” (Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism)
In the beginning
In the first half of the 20th century, there was a handful of British leftists who supported the idea of an independent Jewish state. In 1917, the Labour Party advocated the right of Jews to return to their ancestral homeland, a position that was soon echoed by the Balfour Declaration, which favoured “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” Chaim Weizmann, who became president of the British Zionist Federation in 1917 and helped formulate the Balfour Declaration, was on friendly terms with Guardian newspaper editor C. P. Scott. The paper supported the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.
Despite occasional words of support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland, the Labour Party betrayed Israel at the earliest opportunity. Post-war British foreign secretary Ernest Bevin, who believed he was the victim of a Jewish conspiracy, embargoed arms shipments at a time when Israel was fighting for its life and refused to lift restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine.
In 1948, Bevin negotiated the “Portsmouth Treaty” (never to be implemented), in which Britain agreed to provide the Iraqis with weapons to destroy the impending Israeli state. According to then-Iraqi foreign minister Muhammad Fadhel al-Jamali, “the British undertook to withdraw from Palestine gradually, so that Arab forces could enter every area evacuated by the British in order that the whole of Palestine should be in Arab bands after the British withdrawal.” The post-war Labour government also sided with the Egyptians in the Arab-Israeli war. The British sent five reconnaissance aircraft to scout for Israeli positions but were shot down by the Jewish airforce.
Bevin was convinced that he in particular – and the British people in general – were the dupes of a Jewish conspiracy. Bevin’s paranoia was not unusual. Even before anti-Zionism became fashionable, left-wingers in the UK and Europe had a tendency to espouse outlandish theories and/or champion unpleasant ‘solutions’ to the ‘Jewish problem’. Here are some examples:
Karl Marx, author of ‘A World Without Jews’, stated that money was the “worldly god” of the Jews and that usury is the “object of the Jew’s worship.”
In the late 19th century, the Social Democratic Federation – the forerunner of the British Socialist Party – accused the Jews of being in control of every Foreign Office in Europe.
Marxist theorist Friedrich Engels claimed that he understood French anti-Semitism, “when I see how many Jews of Polish origin and with German names intrude themselves everywhere, arrogate everything to themselves and push themselves forward to the point of creating public opinion.”
The 19th century French Socialist Charles Fourier, who coined the word ‘feminism’, wrote: “Every government having regard to good morals ought to repress the Jews.”
French socialist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, wrote in 1847: “This race poisons everything by meddling everywhere without ever joining itself to another people […] Abolish the synagogues; do not admit them to any kind of employment, pursue finally the abolition of this cult [… ] The Jew is the enemy of the human race. One must send this race back to Asia or exterminate it.”
Pierre Leroux, who invented the term ‘socialism’ in the 19th century, opined: “When we speak of Jews, we mean the Jewish spirit, the spirit of profit, of lucre, of gain, the spirit of commerce.”
The term “anti-Semitism” was coined by radical leftist Wilhelm Marr. The word appears in his tract, ‘The Way to Victory of the Germanic Spirit over the Jewish Spirit’, published in 1880.
H.G. Wells, writing in 1940, said: “The hostile reaction to the cult of the Chosen People is spreading about the entire world to-day […] Until they [the Jews] are prepared to assimilate and abandon the Chosen People idea altogether, their troubles are bound to intensify.”
Interestingly, 35 years before the establishment of the State of Israel, Lenin expressed indignation that there were some Jews who were rejecting the class struggle in favour of a national identity. In ‘Critical Remarks on the National Question’ (1913), Lenin stated: “Whoever directly or indirectly puts forward the slogan of a Jewish ‘national culture’ is (whatever his good intentions may be) an enemy of the proletariat.”
The USSR and Zionism
There is a theory that much of today’s left-wing anti-Semitism stems from the Soviet Union. Although the Soviet Union voted in favour of partitioning ‘Palestine’ in 1947, Stalin’s paranoid anti-Semitism, which masqueraded as a campaign against the so-called ‘rootless cosmopolitan’ and the Zionists, is also well-documented. And like Hitler, Stalin was preoccupied with extracting Jewishness from society. Before he died, the Soviet leader was considering deporting two million Jews to Siberia.
In 1946, dozens of Jews were killed in the Polish city of Kielce, after Soviet-backed communist security forces spread a (false) story of Jews ritually killing children. Local people, joined by communist party workers, police and army personnel, savagely attacked the Jewish community, murdering around 40 people, including women and children.
Soviet-sponsored anti-Semitism also influenced communist attitudes towards the Holocaust. In the aftermath of the Second World War, Jewish victims in east Germany were considered less deserving than their communist brethren. The left-wing authority in east Germany was reluctant to recognise the severity of the Holocaust. Moreover, anti-capitalist sentiment was still closely tied to anti-Semitic prejudice. The debate in east Germany as to who should be granted “victim-of-fascism” status, for the most part, excluded the unique suffering of the Jewish people. In fact, there was a widespread belief that the Jews were somehow responsible for their suffering because they did not actively resist the Nazis. (This claim was not only unjust, it was also untrue.)
The Soviet Union kick-started an international campaign against Zionism when it broke diplomatic relations with Israel following the Six-Day War. Zionism was both a proxy for American imperialist interest and a modern incarnation of Nazism, according to the Soviets. Of course, this was during the time of the Cold War and the Soviets needed to win over the support of Arab regimes and reach out to socialists in the West. This was clearly evident in the Soviet’s support of the infamous ‘Zionism is Racism’ resolution by the UN in 1975 (and rescinded in 1991).
It is well documented that as well as courting Arab leaders, the USSR also armed and trained the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) during the 1970s. Hezbollah and Hamas also had links with the USSR. But according to James Simpson, writing in the Washington Examiner, Russia is still waging a covert war against the West by backing Islamic radicals. He bases this assumption on a number of claims made by Russian dissidents, the most notable being Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with radioactive polonium in 2006. Litvinenko apparently asserted that Ayman Al-Zawahiri, now the current leader of al-Qaeda, was recruited by the KGB. It is unclear, however, whether Al-Zawahiri is still working for the Russians.
Even if this is the case, the Russians themselves have been victims of terrorism. The two most notable examples are the seizure in 2002 of a Moscow theatre by Chechnyan militants and the Beslan school massacre in which 1,100 people were taken hostage, the majority of whom were children. Over 380 people died in what was perhaps Russia’s equivalent of 9/11. This has not stopped the Russian leadership being on friendly terms with the equally dangerous Hamas.
Putting aside the situation in modern-day Russia, it is true to say that Soviet-sponsored anti-Semitism did not disappear with the collapse of the USSR but continues to manifest itself in left-wing grassroots organisations, the trade union movement and anti-imperialist organisations, all of which seek to justify Islamic radicalism and violent Palestinian nationalism.
The New Left: Apostles of (in)tolerance
“Recently we have witnessed the rise of the New Left which identifies Israel with the establishment, with acquisition, with smug satisfaction, with, in fact, all the basic enemies … Let there be no mistake: the New Left is the author and the progenitor of the new anti-Semitism.” (Abba Eban, Foreign Minister of Israel, writing in the American Jewish Congress Bi-Weekly in 1973.)
In the 1960s, the New Left was born. Suspicious of both Soviet authoritarianism and Western post-war establishment values, this new generation of socialists drew much of its power from the counter-culture, the campuses, black radicals such as the Black Panthers, and the anti-Semitic Nation of Islam. Although many Jews were involved in social activism and the civil rights movement, Zionism was getting an increasingly bad press, especially after 1967. Israel’s astounding victory in the Six-Day War, especially the capture of East Jerusalem, was proof that the Jewish State was a force to be reckoned with.
This was too much for the Left’s anti-war ideologues, who were becoming increasingly distrustful of Western foreign policy. But what really upset the Left was the fact that Israel was no longer prepared to “lay down and die while his door is kicked in”, as Bob Dylan put it. The New Left’s commitment to helping (or patronising) the oppressed peoples of the world had taken a massive knock. The most persecuted people in history – the Jews – had executed the most impressive military operation since World War II.
The Jewish people had broken free of their chains, effectively rejecting the victim status imposed upon them during and following the Holocaust. Now that Israel had lost its ‘moral innocence’ by carrying out a pre-emptive (but necessary) strike against the Arabs and capturing territory beyond the 1948 border, the Jewish State was now considered animperialist oppressor like the USA. In a return to the anti-Semitic tropes of pre-war Europe, the Zionist was portrayed as the parasite, the victimiser, the monied manipulator of power.
This meant that the Left needed a ‘new Jew’ to patronise. And what better than the newly-identified Palestinian people? The invention of Palestinian nationalism was a stroke of genius. Arab anti-Semites, like the Cairo-born Yasser Arafat, were able to whip up anti-Jewish feeling by fabricating an ethnocentric national liberation movement that had never existed until the 1960s. It is important to note that the Palestinians are not an indigenous ethnic sub-group but are Arabs and are no different from the Jordanians or the Syrians. The Palestinian refugee population comprises of immigrants from neighbouring Arab countries, many of whom came to the Holy Land after the Jewish settlers arrived to drain the swamps and redeem what was largely empty land. The PLO has readily admitted that Palestinian nationalism is a faux ethnicity designed to undermine Jewish claims to the land of Israel.
The Left swallowed the invention of the Palestinian people hook, line and sinker. Over the years, the Palestinians managed to convince the Left – and the rest of the world – that they had, in fact, always existed, even before the time of Mohammed. In fact, some Palestinians claim that their people existed on the land of Israel before the Israelites. Hence, the highly dubious claim that the Palestinian Arabs are the offspring of the biblical Jebusites and Canaanites.
The red-black alliance
It is hard to establish whether the relationship between the Left and Islamic radicalism is deep and long-standing, or a temporary marriage of convenience. As things stand, the Left and Islam are both at loggerheads with the dominant culture and so for now at least seek ‘solace’ in each other. As Caldwell asserts, in his book Reflections on the Revolution in Europe, “Anti-Israel rhetoric not only unites Muslims with each other. It also unites them with an important segment of native Europeans, particularly on the political left. In an odd way, it is an avenue of integration.”
It is self-evident that alliance between the Left and Islamofascists is one of mutual convenience. The mutual desire to overthrow Western democracy and dismantle Israeli statehood has thrown the two parties together, despite the fact that both partners hold completely different views on the status of women, gays and the role religion in public life. This red-black alliance is not about creating peaceful conditions on the ground but eroding the Judeo-Christian values of the West, as well as destroying Israel’s reputation and undermining its security.
The desire to undercut American hegemony was made clear by British socialist firebrand George Galloway at the start of the Iraq War. He stated it was “vitally necessary” that the Left ally itself with radical Islam. This is possible, he said, because both “have the same enemies”. These enemies include the “Zionist”, American and British “occupation of poor countries mainly Muslim countries.” Both the Left and Islam share the same goal of opposing the “savage capitalist globalization which is intent upon homogenizing the entire world”, he added. Likewise, the far left journalist John Pilger endorsed the killing of American troops by the Iraqi resistance for the simple reason that the US was an occupier and that the Left “can’t afford to be choosy” in obtaining allies.
Lynn Stewart, who works for the left-leaning National Lawyers Guild, was more explicit about the need to cooperate with Islamists. Stewart, who was convicted of smuggling messages to Islamic radicals, said: “They [extremist Islamic movements] are basically forces of national liberation. And I think that we, as persons who are committed to the liberation of oppressed people, should fasten on the need for self-determination.”
Caldwell offers another explanation as to why the Left is pandering to Muslim anti-Semites. Ironically, it is born out of a well-meaning but misguided attempt to avoid another genocide in Europe. Caldwell believes that the need to avoid racism at all costs following the Holocaust has resulted in a contest for the prize of top victim. Sections of the Muslim community have manipulated left-wing sympathy and the political elite into believing that Muslims are the victims of Islamophobia and of Israeli and American policy.
The European political elite’s unwillingness to integrate immigrant Muslim populations, as well as its obsession with political correctness, have become “the means through which anti-Jewish fury was re-injected into European life”, state Caldwell. He continues: “Far from forgetting the lessons of the Holocaust, anti-Semites and anti-Zionists were obsessed with them. They were a rhetorical toolkit. If the Muslims were the new Jews, apparently, then the Jews were the new Nazis.”
Most people don’t associate the Left with racial discrimination, but it is clear socialists are engaging in anti-Israel discrimination and a subtle form of Third World racism, as well as outright anti-Semitism.
One of the ways the Left is racist is because it singles out Israel for differential and discriminatory treatment in the international arena, expecting it to conform to an impossibly high moral standard that would endanger Israel’s well-being. When Israel inevitably falls short of these impossible standards, it is accused of indefensible behaviour. In contrast, the Palestinians, who have the backing of around 1.6 billion Muslims and several Arab armies, are not held up to any standard at all.
No other nation in the world is singled out for criticism the way Israel is. Israel is condemned for human rights abuses even when such allegations are proved to be untrue (e.g. Jenin). It is accused of ethnic cleansing when it builds Jewish neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem. It is dubbed an apartheid state even though Israeli Arabs have full voting rights. It is accused of being an occupier even though Jews had lived on the West Bank for hundreds of years before they were evicted by the Jordanians. It is accused of doing nothing to promote peace when it is the Palestinians who have turned down the opportunity for statehood on numerous occasions (1948, 1967, 2000, 2008).
At the same time, the Left, along with the United Nations, treats the Palestinians like children (the child is the victim par excellence). Such children, of course, don’t know any better and should not be punished or chastised for their mistakesbecause nothing is ever their fault. This shades in to a form of neo-primitivism, where Third World populations are allowed to (literally) get away with murder. The Left, along with the mainstream media, have adopted the racist stance that when the Palestinians kill each other or kill Jews, it is a legitimate expression of a Third World ‘will to power’ and are therefore absolved of responsibility. When Israelis take military action or assassinate a terrorist leader, it is dubbed fascist or racist.
The Left does not view the Palestinian as a full human being, with all the rights and responsibilities this entails, but is regarded as some kind of special case. In general, the Left has been uninterested in the emancipation of Arabs. The gathering of Stop the War protestors in London prior to the US-led invasion of Iraq, with their “not in my name” placards, reveals much about the left-wing mentality. The opportunity to free the Iraqis from one of the worst tyrants in modern history was dismissed by the Left, who cynically used the impending war as a way of lambasting George W Bush and Tony Blair. If Blair and Bush had caved in to this pressure, Saddam would still be in power and the Iraqi people would still be oppressed and tortured. Despotic and cruel regimes in the Muslim world are of no interest to the Left, except when they are forced to defend them. (Notably, the date chosen by the Stop the War coalition for one of their demos was 28th September 2002, the second anniversary of the second intifada. This was the march where some of the protestors chanted “death to the Jews” in Arabic and where there were placards that juxtaposed the Star of David with the swastika. Coincidentally (or not) the September 2003 Stop the War demo took place on the Jewish festival, Rosh Hashanah.)
But when it comes to Palestinian freedom, the Left is positively drooling. Why? Because it fits the anti-American and anti-Israel narrative. If the Palestinians were being “oppressed” by the Egyptians or Jordanians, you wouldn’t hear squeak from the Left. (In fact, when Jordan and Egypt annexed the West Bank and Gaza respectively, neither the Left nor the Palestinian Arabs talked of ‘occupation’. That’s because the Jordanians and Egyptians are Arabs, not Jews.)
So the Left wants a free Palestine. Putting aside the fact that the Palestinians have rejected a state of their own on several occasions (twice in the past 12 years), does the Left really expect Palestine to be a place of tolerance and equality, with functioning democratic institutions and trade unions? If the Left wants these things for the Palestinians, why is it so cosy with Hamas, which considers homosexuality to be a moral sickness, when it imposes a strict Islamic dress code on women and executes those whom it considers traitors. Hamas, which has turned Gaza into a one-party state, espouses Holocaust denial on its website, diverts humanitarian aid from those who need it most and uses civilians as human shields.
Anyway, why should the Left condemn Hamas? Hamas represents exactly what the hard Left relishes. Violence! Extreme ideology! Anti-Semitism! Anti-Americanism! Of course, if this means suspending its commitment to gay rights and gender equality, then so be it. The fetishization of Arab and Muslim violence is one of the Left’s hallmarks. And it works both ways. Islam expert Olivier Roy believes that Al-Qaeda’s tactics of abducting and beheading persons via live broadcasts were inspired by extreme left-wing antics in the 1970s. Both the Left and Islamic terror groups share the same penchant for undermining stability and intimidating their enemies.
As things stand, the Left does not expect the Palestinians to do anything to resolve the crisis. Everything depends on Israel, which means Israel is always to blame. But what more can the Israelis do? The Palestinians have had several chances to build a state on the West Bank and Gaza and on each occasion they either turned it down or just simply walked away. As recently as 2008, Israeli PM Ehud Olmert offered the Palestinians almost all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem (in addition to Gaza). Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, received the plans but never got back to Olmert. Yet it is Israel that is being subjected to boycotts and international criticism.
When the Israelis withdrew from Gaza in 2005, did the Palestinians make an effort to build a state? No, they destroyed the infrastructure left behind by the Israelis. When the Gazans send rockets into southern Israel, does the Left criticise Hamas? No, they blame Israel for the blockade, which is only in effect because of the rocket attacks. Does the Left hold the Egyptians accountable for their blockade of Gaza? No, because it doesn’t fit the anti-Israel narrative.
The Left also holds some unsavoury racist attitudes regarding white people, even if they are white themselves. The Left’s fetishization of black and/or Arab power, combined with a disgust of the West’s colonial past, has resulted in a bizarre white guilt complex. This may explain why the Left supports the nationalisms of Third World peoples – aborigines, native Indians, the Palestinians – but actively seeks to deconstruct the nationalisms of Europe, Israel and the US. (It’s an interesting turn of history that the Jews and Israelis are now considered fully paid-up members of the ‘white’ race.) This dismantling of the nation state in Europe is in large part due to lax EU immigration laws. America-bashing is also a fun sport for the Left, which considers most white protestant males to be uncultured, unintelligent, hamburg-munching reactionaries. The smearing of George W Bush, who was actually a well-read compassionate man who boosted AIDS funding in Africa and had several ‘black’ people in his government, is a case in point. Unfortunately, his folksy demeanour and cowboy swagger, and the fact that he was a Christian Republican, made him a figure of fun for self-proclaimed intellectuals and atheists around the world.
The British experience
In the UK, the centre-left media constantly bleats on about Zionism and the supposed influence of the Jewish lobby on American and British policymakers. In 2003, the Independent published a cartoon that depicted Israeli leader Ariel Sharon eating a baby (thus drawing on the ancient blood libel). The Guardian, which has abandoned its support for Israel and now takes a staunchly pro-Palestinian line, is reviled by large parts of the Jewish community. The Guardian’s Comment is Free website is so notorious for its anti-Semitism that an organisation called Cif Watch has been established to monitor both the newspaper and its comments website. Mark Gardner, in his excellent ironically-entitled essay, ‘The Zionists are our Misfortune’, cites an example from 2006. One remark on Comment is Free ran: “Zionists, like Nazis in the past will be brought to their knees. Zionist sympathisers are nothing more than devil worshipers, they like to suck your blood dry.” He rightly cites this as an example of how “unrestricted groupthink” is infiltrating “supposedly respectable spaces such as the Guardian’s Comment is Free.” The growing trend for members of the public to leave comments on news sites has led to the normalisation of hate speech, with the “onus for policing the limits” of acceptable speech “transferred from the publisher to the victim.”
It is surprising how many column inches are devoted by the media to what is actually a minor land dispute and yet the newspapers treat it is as a global issue of the utmost importance. The blame for this lies largely with the Arab world’s inferiority complex. The Arabs have never forgiven Israel for re-establishing a homeland in the middle of the IslamicUmmah (empire) and have done everything possible (usually terrorism) to turn the spotlight on Israel. This has the unfortunate consequence of putting the Jewish state back in the limelight of history and reawakening old prejudices about the Jews. Even the Guardian has conceded that it “may” be disproportionately preoccupied with Israel. The BBC, too, has privately acknowledged that it is biased against the Israelis.
The hysteria is not confined to the media. During this period, the Left’s continued to make use of outdated anti-Semitic tropes about Jews and money. In 1979, the Workers Revolutionary Party accused Britain of selling out the Palestinians to “Zionist money power”. Labour MP Tam Dalyell once claimed that Tony Blair’s middle east policy was being subverted by a Jewish “cabal.” Or there is ‘Perdition’, a play performed by Scottish branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which alleges Zionist collaboration in the Nazi genocide of Hungarian Jews. Or there is Liberal Democrat Jenny Tonge’s claim that the Israeli rescue team in earthquake-hit Haiti was only there to harvest body parts. Former London mayor Ken Livingstone and George Galloway MP have also made unpleasant comments. Livingstone, who made a point of inviting an anti-Semitic Muslim cleric to Britain, once likened a Jewish reporter to “a concentration camp guard.” Galloway has made a career of courting Muslim voters, lambasting Israel and cavorting with Jew-haters, including his Respect Party colleague Carole Swords, who once wrote on Facebook that Zionists are “cockroaches” who “hide in the dark and try to create havoc where they lay their eggs.”
In 2006, a parliamentary inquiry reported that “contemporary anti-Semitism in Britain is now more commonly found on the left of the political spectrum than on the right.” Historian David Cesaeri told the inquiry that anti-Semitism is “masked by or blended inadvertently into anti-Zionism, and because it is often articulated in the language of human rights.” Panel chairman Denis MacShane believes that singling out Israel for boycotts, while ignoring non-democratic regimes, is hypocritical and contributes to an atmosphere in which Jews in Britain feel like “second-class citizens.”
Scapegoating the Jews (again)
One of the mysteries of history is why anti-Semitism is so prevalent, even in countries where there are barely any Jews (e.g. Japan). If anything positive came out of the Holocaust, it was the realisation that racist language can have devastating effects. Following the horrors of the Nazi genocide, the mainstream public and the media rejected anti-Semitism as a dangerous and discredited mode of discourse. Even the Catholic Church apologised for its role in demonising the Jews. But a generation after the Holocaust, there were anti-Zionist murmurings on the Left, which soon became full-blown hatred for Israel. Slowly but surely, anti-Zionism shaded into anti-Semitism, a trend which was encouraged by Muslim hatred for the Jews. Nowadays, it is distressingly common to read or hear anti-Semitic language from people who should know better. Take, for example, the ramblings of American left-wing analyst and self-styled revolutionary James Petras.
Petras, who has contributed articles to the Guardian and the New Left Review, has labelled American Zionists “Israel’s fifth column” and stereotyped the American Jewish community as “primarily defined by their entrepreneurial capacities” and “upholders of a doctrine of offensive wars.” In his book, The Power of Israel in the U.S., Petras states: “The worse crimes are committed by those who claim to be a divinely chosen people, a people with righteous claims of supreme victimhood. Righteous victimology, linked to ethno-religious loyalties and directed by fanatical civilian militarists with advanced weaponry, is the greatest threat to world peace and humanity.” He has also blamed the global economic crisis on Zionists and accused the American-Jewish community of being “bloodthirsty” for war and controlling the media. President Obama is criticised for capitulating to “the Zionofascists” and is a “greater war monger on issues involving Israel than even Bush.” Not only do the Zionists “rule the White House”, they also have control of the entire political apparatus “to silence, insult, witch hunt and isolate any critic of their agenda.”
It is obvious that Petras is not engaging in legitimate criticism of Israel but is demonising “Zionists” and more worryingly, American Jews in general. Some of his language would not be out of place in a Nazi tract: Jews are a “fifth column”; they are capitalists who control the media and the banks; and they are “bloodthirsty”. It is extremely alarming that so-called progressives think it is acceptable to employ such terminology. What’s worse is that most of them actually deny that the Left has been tainted by anti-Semitism. The Left’s inability to confront this problem not only calls into question their judgement, it is indicative of a depressing decline in the quality of public discourse. It is also an example of what Irving Louis Horowitz has described as left-wing fascism: the tendency to find faults “everywhere and always in an imperial conspiracy of wealth, power or status.”
While Zionists – both Jewish and non-Jewish – are trying to make the case for Israel and defeat anti-Semitism, the Left is undermining Israel’s legitimacy and adding to the sickness that is anti-Semitism. Of course, not everyone on the Left is anti-Semitic, although most are anti-Zionist. Jews who identify with the Left are critical of some of Israel’s policies, but they do not usually deny its right to exist. Confusingly, the Left often makes the point that it can’t be anti-Semitic because it has Jewish supporters. But this misses the point. There are individuals on the Left who are most definitely anti-Semitic; and taken as a whole, the Left is undoubtedly blurring the line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.
Not everything the Left believes in is bad. The right to engage in same-sex relationships and for women to be treated fairly in the workplace are just two examples of positive socialism. The trouble is, such beliefs are being submerged by the Left’s perverse alliance with people who kill gays and mutilate women. Add the problems of anti-Semitism and street violence into the mix and you have a situation where the Left is no longer progressive but fascist. Even when individuals on the Left act in good faith, their intentions, in the words of poet John Milton, “do not make good deeds”; neither can good intentions “prevent the consequences of bad deeds from being bad.” One should be able to hold progressive views about homosexuality and gender equality without identifying with the Left. The Left, after all, is totalitarian philosophy with a terrible track record for backing despots and justifying the murder of millions in Soviet Russia and Maoist China.
Left-wing fascism: terror and ‘brown shirt’ activism
There is a growing number of scholars, sociologists and political philosophers who believe fascism is alive and kicking on the left of the political spectrum. Jonah Goldberg, Richard Wolin, Bernard-Henri Levy and Irving Louis Horowitz are among those who believe the Left is sowing all the hallmarks of European fascism: irrational, emotional, anti-Semitic, engaged in violent confrontation with democratic institutions.
Eager to shake of the so-called Judenkomplex, (i.e. Holocaust guilt), left-wing groups in the late 1960s onwards latched on to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis as a way of absolving their generation of guilt-by-association by casting the Israelis in the role of the new Nazis. Driven by an extreme anti-imperialist ideology, these left-wing extremists carried out a number of terrorist acts against Jews, including the placement of a bomb in the Jewish Community Centre in West Berlin on November 9th 1969 (the anniversary of Kristnallnacht).
The Red Army Faction, a violent revolutionary cell which operated in Europe until 1990s, held anti-Semitic views, culminating in the explosion of a bomb near a bus filled with Russian Jewish émigrés on their way from Budapest to Israel. Significantly, Ulrike Meinhof, co-founder of the Red Army Faction, equated anti-Semitism with anti-capitalism, and came very close to justifying the Holocaust: “Auschwitz meant that six million Jews were killed, and thrown on the waste-heap of Europe, for what they were considered: money-Jews.” (Interestingly, Meinhof’s contemporary, Horst Mahler, a founding member of the Red Army Faction, later became a neo-Nazi and was tried in Germany over charges of Holocaust denial.)
Across the Atlantic, the Weather Underground was responsible for bombings during the 1970s. The founding document of the movement called for “the destruction of US imperialism and achieve a classless world: world communism.” Interestingly, the founders of this group went on to establish the Free Gaza movement, which has attempted to breach the Egyptian-Gaza border and break the Israeli blockade on Gaza. The most notorious incident was the Gaza Flotilla debacle in 2010, which resulted in several Israeli commandos being shot, beaten and stabbed by so-called peace activists .
While acts of left-wing terror have largely disappeared, the Left has legitimised a political style reminiscent of ‘brown shirt’ fascism by waging a Kulturkampf (culture war) against Israel. The malicious boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign has done inestimable damage to Israel’s reputation. Inexplicably, Israel is now considered to be on a par with apartheid South Africa. A growing number of universities, trade unions and businesses have decided to boycott not only Israeli products, but also individual Israelis (usually academics), as well as Israeli orchestras and theatre groups. In the past month, Unison prevented an Israeli speaker attending an NHS event, while the Co-operative has extended its boycott of Israeli producers. Grassroots socialists in the UK regularly stage daft demonstrations outside Marks and Spencer’s because of its links with Israel.
In 2011, Australian pro-Palestinian groups targeted the Israeli-owned business Max Brenner in Melbourne. Nineteen activists were arrested during the protest, most of whom were charged and bailed on offences including assaulting police and riotous behaviour. Indeed, the BDS movement has clear affinities with the thuggery of anti-globalisation protestors who like to smash up Starbucks because the company is viewed as a symbol of American capitalism and because its founder, Howard Shultz, gives money to Jewish causes. As Ben Cohen points out on his blog ‘Z Word’, the elevation of a local conflict between Israelis and Palestinians into a global one “is what unites the movement to boycott Israel with the thugs who vandalized a synagogue in Caracas and the advocates of a boycott of Jewish-owned business in countries as far apart as Italy, South Africa and Argentina.” Again, this is reminiscent of the Nazi brown shirts who indulged in acts of violence and boycotts against its political enemies.
Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz has stated that those who advocate boycotts and divestiture “will literally have blood on their hands” because they “encourage terrorism and discourage the laying down of arms.” In 2011, LUSH, a leading luxury handmade cosmetics company, announced that it was giving a share of its profits to an anti-Israel organization called “OneWorld”, a group set up by various recording artists who released an anti-Semitic song titled “Freedom for Palestine.” More troubling was the fact that OneWorld was supported by several organisations that were sympathetic to terrorism. Luckily, the ‘Lush supports Hamas’ backlash damaged the company’s reputation, causing one of its shops to close.
If the Left ever had any genuine sympathy for Jewish self-rule, it has completely dissipated. Soviet Russia’s short-lived pro-Israel stance in the late 1940s was an aberration, born out of the common struggle against the Nazis. It was only while the Jewish people were considered victims of the Nazis did some aspects of the Left express momentary support for a Jewish homeland.
Once the Jewish people had rid themselves of the Nazis and had shown the Arab world that they would not be driven into the sea, the Left saw no further use for Jewish nationalism and reverted to its pre-war anti-Semitism, with the Jewish people once again portrayed as the evil bloodsucker. Over the past few decades, the Left has absorbed the Far Right’s obsession with Jewish lobbies and secret Zionist conspiracies. Thanks to its alliance with Islamists, whose outrageous anti-Semitic rhetoric is commonplace, the Left has managed to popularise anti-Semitism on the campuses and in the media. Whereas the Far Right was conscious of its anti-Semitic tendencies, the Left is so blinded by self-righteousness, it is seemingly oblivious to its own obscene rhetoric. Quite often, the Left is apoplectic when accused of anti-Semitism. The trouble is, the Left does not know – or pretends not to know – the difference between the anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism (and there is a very fine line between the two). Although not every criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, the Left’s disproportionate obsession with Israel amounts to a global assault on Jewish self-determinism.
Thanks to the Left, Zionism is now a dirty word. Once Zionism was a noble aim. It was the ultimate expression of Jewish identity and sovereignty. Today, the Left and its fellow travellers use the word ‘Zionist’ as an insult, in the same way it hurls the words ‘fascist’ and ‘Nazi’ at anyone who dares to disagree with them. Even in the media, the word ‘Zionist’ has connotations of ‘oppressor’ and ‘racist’. Zionism – both as word and as concept – needs to be reclaimed by those who support Israel.
It is a curious turn of history that the Left, which prides itself on its progressivism, has joined forces with illiberal Islamists. But in a sense, they are perfect bedfellows. Both movements are violent, anti-American and anti-Semitic. The Left has always put its faith in dubious causes (the Black Panthers, IRA and the PLO) and downright evil regimes (the French Revolution, Stalinist Russia and Mao’s China). During the Cold War, the British Left tried to convince us that communism was about peace and nuclear disarmament. All the while, Russia and China were oppressing and murdering millions of their own people. Today, the Left tries to convince the world that Islam is a religion of peace and that Israel is the world’s greatest threat. Why does the Left get things so wrong?
Socialism is essentially the philosophy of the juvenile. It is a philosophy that views history in terms of black and white. This dialectic manifests itself in crude one-dimensional binary opposites: Israeli/Palestinian; rich/poor; fair/unfair; ‘the West’/Muslims; justice/injustice; strong/weak. From these few examples, you can see how the Left develops its narrative. The Israelis are rich, powerful Westerners. The Palestinians are poor, defenceless Muslims. This type of narrative, far from being progressive, is actually reactionary. It leads to situations where the Left finds itself supporting the likes of Saddam Hussein or Stalin for the simple reason that both were anti-American (and anti-Zionist). As Nietzsche pointed out, socialism is the “younger brother of an almost decrepit despotism.” According to the philosopher (who was contemptuous of anti-Semites), socialism can only exist “by means of the most extreme terrorism.” Not only that, the Left drives the word justice “like a nail into the heads of the semi-educated masses, to rob them completely of their reason.” What the Left is doing – in collusion with Islamists – is eerily reminiscent of what the Nazis did in Germany. Hitler polluted public discourse with stories about how terrible and how dangerous the Jews are to society. And we all know how that ended.
The only hope is that the Left eventually realises it has been on the wrong side of history. Since the collapse of communism, most socialists have come to realise it was immoral to support Stalin and Mao. But it still clings to the belief that its support of Hamas, the IRA and dangerous student radicals is a good thing. Like the Left’s support for the black supremacists in the late 1960s, the Left of today is desperate to gain approval and support of violent Islamists in order to boost its anti-imperialist credentials. Maybe in fifty years’ time, after Israel has imploded from the pressure of a hostile world or is blown to bits by the Iranians, it will understand why it was indefensible to single out Israel for unwarranted condemnation and make amends for its unquestioned support of Jew-hating Islamofascists.