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.”
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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.
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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