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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Behind The Left’s Betrayal Of Israel

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It is as if the Holocaust had never happened for much of the Left except as a cynically manipulated metaphor enabling it to brand Israel with the mark of Cain as theultimate symbol of evil; as the “little Satan” carrying out the imperialist will of the “Great Satan” (America) or else as the conspiratorial mafia that determines U.S. foreign policy. For the European Left, still unhinged by the fall of Communism after 1989, anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism appear as the last two ideological pillars still standing in the debris of the collapsed Soviet Empire. When Leftists evoke America, nowadays they often mean “Jewish power” – “domination” of Hollywood, the media, high finance, the Congress, the Pentagon, and the White House by American Jewry. They are talking anti-Semitism, only now it is wrapped in the more politically correct euphemism of the “Zionist lobby.”

* * * * *

From Ambivalence to Betrayal is (among other things) an attempt to get to grips with the paranoid conspiracy-mongering on the Left, which invariably parades as a humanitarian endeavor and a compassionate defense of the “oppressed” or powerless against the might of the “Zionist-Crusader” axis. Already in September 2001 there was a foregleam of the new century in Durban, South Africa. In the streets and in various forums one could hear chants of “One Jew, one bullet,” voiced by leftist, Third Worldist, and Islamist advocates of the Palestinian cause at a UN-sponsored conference of NGOs. The UN event, ostensibly organized to condemn slavery, racism, hunger, and war, soon degenerated into an ugly hatefest.

The “antiracists” of the contemporary Left had found their chosen target by proclaiming what they have never ceased to do ever since – that there is only one “criminal” state in the whole world and its name is Israel.

Thirty-five years ago it had been the Soviet Union (together with the Arab states) which initiated the UN Big Lie that Zionism is racism. Today there is no longer any need for a totalitarian Stalinist apparatus to perpetuate such a major moral and intellectual fraud. For it is “freedom-loving” intellectuals in the West (some of them Jews) who voluntarily lend their hands to the “antiracist” masquerade which declares Israel to be an “apartheid state” – whose disappearance is the precondition for peace in the Middle East.

On campuses throughout Britain and North America “Israeli Anti-Apartheid Week” – often led by publicity-conscious Israeli and Jewish leftists – has now become an increasingly institutionalized fixture for spreading the “anti-Zionist” poison. So, too, have the continual leftist and Palestinian calls for the boycott of Israel in the scientific, technological, commercial, and academic spheres. All of this radical agitation is no longer directed at the “Christ-killers,” the “Jewish usurers” of the Middle Ages, an inferior race of Untermenschen, but against the so-called perpetrators of a (fictional) “genocide” against the Palestinians.

Never mind that this grotesque libel is contradicted by all available empirical evidence, never mind that Israel is increasingly threatened by the genocidal anti-Semitism promoted by Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hizbullah, and the global jihad. Such minor details do not for one moment disturb the sleep of left-wing activists (including the Jews among them) whose “humanist” posture evidently does not extend to the idea that Israelis might also be victims.

In truth, the Left today is a mere shadow of its former self – not least because it is so deeply mired in the muck of anti-Semitic lies and anti-Zionist delusions, many of them focused on the “monstrosity” of Israel as the most racist, fascist, and criminal state on earth. My book goes to the heart of what has become a serious mental derangement in the hope that it may help the Left (and others afflicted by the same malady) to regain its sanity.

This is no doubt an uphill struggle and the prospects of a cure may seem remote. On the other hand, the Arab world is currently in the midst of a historic revolutionary upheaval, which has exposed the emptiness of the claim (so often heard in the West) that Palestine is the eternal source of all unrest in the Middle East – for which Israel is predictably to blame. But the rising of the Arab citizenry against their corrupt and often tyrannical rulers, who have always used anti-Semitism as the “opium of the masses,” proves exactly the opposite. Israel is not the real issue except for those driven by malice, bigotry, cynical self-interest, power seeking, or an irrevocably distorted worldview.

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About the Author: Robert S. Wistrich is Neuberger professor of European and Jewish history at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and director of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism. This essay was adapted from his new book, “From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews, and Israel” (University of Nebraska Press).


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5 Responses to “Behind The Left’s Betrayal Of Israel”

  1. Thank you Professor Wistrich for your incites in this synopsis.The future of peace in the Middle East will not be helped along by either the far left or the far right. The basic idea of allowing Jews and Arabs to live in peace with each having the right to national self-determination based on territorial compromise in the Holy Land, is now much less likely than it was twenty years ago. Ideas towards progress like those of Dennis Ross are falling on deaf ears, leaders on all sides, in Jerusalem, in Gaza, and in Ramallah are unable or unwilling to prepare their people for real peace and reconciliation.

  2. Rc Fowler says:

    Its no surprise the Marxist left is against Israel–they never were genuine supporters of Israel.

    No one who is a Marxist–can be a genuine Zionist–the two ideologies are incompatible!

    Marxism is anti God of the Bible and anti human being!

  3. Charlie Hall says:

    I personally identify as a Leftist supporter of Religious Zionism. But I can't find anything in Prof. Wistrich's essay with which I can disagree.

    I would have added, however, that the Old Left was far from monolithic: In much of Europe before and after WW2 it was the political Left that supported Jews and Israel. Examples are easy to find: Every Socialist member of the Reichstag opposed granting Hitler dictatorial powers, and every non-socialist member vote the wrong way. France under the Left (and even under some governments of the Right) welcomed numerous Jewish refugees from Germany and Eastern Europe prior to WW2 (most of whom were unfortunately rounded up by the Right-dominated Vichy regime), and then after WW2 France under the Left was the biggest ally of the new State of Israel.

    And in America, Pete Seeger and his musical group, The Weavers (two of whose members were Jews) sang the famous Zionist song, "Tzena, Tzena, Tzena". It became the B side of a #1 single. (The A side was Hudie Ledbetter's, "Goodnight, Irene".) Unfortunately Seeger, now 93, has now expressed support for boycotts of Israel, and his long time performing partner, Arlo Guthrie, another hero of the Left for his opposition to the Vietnam war, endorsed for President none other than Ron Paul, the single most anti-Israel politician in Washington (and whose politics are so far to the Right that they are attracting naive Leftists like Guthrie). Woe to us all!

  4. Susan Ellman says:

    Maybe Arlo was brainwashed by his right wing bar mitzvah tutor.

  5. Charlie Hall says:

    Arlo, who is indeed halachically Jewish, converted to the Roman Catholic Church.

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The main title of my new book, From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews, and Israel, may raise a few eyebrows. To what “betrayal” am I referring? Surely neither anti-Semitism nor hostility to Israel can be seen as prerogatives of leftism; and if they do exist in some quarters of the Left, is that not an example of “legitimate criticism” of Israel, a country regularly pilloried in international forums as one of the last remaining bastions of Western colonialism?

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The Muslim Brotherhood did not initiate the current upheavals in the Middle East, but the Islamist parties in Egypt, as in Tunisia and Libya, have been the chief beneficiaries of the collapse of longstanding authoritarian repressive regimes across North Africa.

It is almost ten years since the UN-sponsored World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa, inaugurated a new stage in the history of “anti-racist” anti-Semitism.

Ten years ago, the Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission, established to investigate Pope Pius XII’s response to the Holocaust, met for the first time to discuss its future work. I was the only Israeli historian among the six scholars (three Catholics and three Jews) designated by the Vatican and leading Jewish organizations to study this hotly contested issue.

On November 9, 1938, a massive nationwide anti-Jewish pogrom took place during peacetime across the entire territory of the Third Reich. The pretext for this explosion of violence against German Jews was the shooting in Paris two days earlier of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old Polish-Jewish refugee.

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