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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 still far too early to say how the Arab revolutions will finally play themselves out. Israel, as well as the West, certainly has serious grounds for concern at the possible negative fallout for its own security. Yet a ray of light has already pierced the thick propaganda barrage of anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism, whether it be Muslim, leftist, liberal, or neo-fascist in origin. Much will depend on whether this small window of hope can be extended or not.

The Islamist war against Israel (spearheaded by Iran) which is itself a war for expanding the global jihad would, if successful, ultimately endanger not only the existence of Israel but of civilization itself. At the same time, the defense of Israel’s right to exist in peace and security is rapidly becoming a litmus-test of the boundaries between jihadists and democrats, extremists and moderates.

By focusing attention so obsessively on the “sins” of Israel and its so-called crimes, most of the Left has completely missed the wider picture and will continue to condemn itself to irrelevance until or unless it awakens from its self-induced stupor.

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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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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More Articles from Prof. Robert S. Wistrich
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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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