Growing up, I always found one of the most bizarre things in history to be the dramatic
turnabout of the communist movement the day Germany invaded Stalinist Russia.
The communists and their fellow travelers were ferociously anti-fascist in the mid-1930’s,
but were decided pro-Hitler from the time of the Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 23, 1939.
Germany had already gobbled up Czechoslovakia within the framework of the Munich Agreement. Even before the Pact, Stalin had been carefully nursing a neutral position regarding Nazi Germany, hoping to deflect the German war machine onto the capitalist West. Stalin repeated his friendship for Germany at the usual Party meetings and congresses, and the Comintern — Stalin’s international propaganda apparatus — issued instructions for how good leftists must think.
Hitler was in a hurry. After taking Memel from Lithuania, he was planning to conquer Poland before the end of the summer of ’39. Stalin began a series of secret negotiations with Hitler. On August 3, 1939, Hitler agreed to Stalin’s terms for sitting by while Poland was destroyed. Germany never even bothered to inform its ally, Italy, of its plans. On the night of August 19 the Nazi-Soviet trade treaty was signed. When he received Stalin’s assent, Hitler pounded on the wall with his fists and shouted, “I have the world in my pocket!” On the night of August 23, 1939, the non-secret text of pact was officially released.
Stalin collaborated openly with Hitler in dividing up Eastern Europe, with the uniform approval and applause of the world’s communist parties and the “progressive” Left. After the invasion of France by Germany, Stalin ordered the military occupation of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and all three were ”admitted” into the Soviet Union as constituent republics in July. In late June the Soviets also annexed Bessarabia and northern Bukovina. All this was done by way of an
ultimatum to Romania. The Russians then used most of the annexed territory to create a new Moldavian SSR.
Ah, but Stalin’s Russia quickly became a victim of its betrayal of civilization. Hitler was not simply going to war against the capitalist West, but had been planning all along to destroy the Soviet Union and annex its lands. In July 1940, Hitler had decided to prepare to attack the Soviet Union. In September, a German-Italian-Japanese Tripartite Pact was signed, and although it stipulated that it would not affect the relations of any of the three powers with the Soviets, a deterioration in Berlin-Moscow amity had become apparent.
In November 1940 Molotov visited Berlin for further discussions of a vague and grandiose kind, but Hitler did not cancel his plans for attack. On December 18, 1940, he issued the directive for Operation Barbarossa, the code name for the invasion of the Soviet Union, to be launched in the middle of 1941.
Within hours of the crossing of the Soviet lines by German tanks, the world communist
movement reversed its political position regarding Nazi Germany by 180 degrees. As if
speaking in the voice of a single man, which of course it was, the communist parties and their
leftist fellow travelers became the most militant warmongers on earth, demanding that
the Western countries attack German and its allies.
Just days earlier they had been praising Germany for its campaign against Western capitalism, endorsing isolationism, calling for neutrality and non-aggression, demanding that proletarians from all nations cooperate, regardless of whether their governments were at war, and even praising some of the “progressive” elements of Nazism, such as its nationalization of some of the means of production.
These were the very same people now marching against Germany, labeling it the epitome of evil, demanding support and solidarity with the Soviet victim of German aggression, supporting rearmament by the same Western nations it had been denouncing as imperialists in the previous breath.
As I say, I always had a great deal of difficulty imagining and understanding how people could display such totalitarian self-abasement, such naked hypocrisy, as did that generation of the Left.
That is, until I observed the turnabout of the Israeli Left on the issue of Israel’s security fence.
From Support to Opposition
Let us note that the idea of building a security barrier — composed of segments of walls, fences, and electronic gimmicks — was long the official banner of Israel’s Oslo Left. The leftists wanted the wall built for several reasons. Mainly, they believed that such a wall would create a de facto separation of Israel from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and behind the wall the Palestinians could exercise sovereignty or semi-sovereignty as a major step toward statehood.
Israeli leftists presumed that once Israel erected the barrier, all Jewish settlers on the wrong side of it would be forced to leave. They also thought that once the fence was up, it would be much easier to block Israeli military incursions into “Palestinian lands.”
For years, the banner slogan of the Oslo Left in Israel was “Us over Here and Them over There.” The wall they proposed to erect in the West Bank would reduce the number of
terrorist infiltrations, as had the fence around most of the Gaza Strip and the security fence
along the Lebanese border. All we need is some electronic gadgets and gizmos and terrorism
from our Oslo peace partners would end, the Left assured the nation.
The wall was the Left’s Master Strategy, a program to impose withdrawal by Israel from
most of the West Bank under the guise of protecting Israeli civilians from terrorist barbarism.
It was the Israeli Right that first criticized the idea of a wall. The main criticism was that it would not effectively end the terror. The Palestinians were already firing mortars and
rockets over the Gaza wall into Jewish homes. What would stop them from doing so with new
And what exactly did the Left think the Palestinians would do once Israel abandoned the territory behind the wall? Take up quilting? The Right also feared the idea that the wall would be construed as a stage in Israel’s eventual withdrawal and abandonment of the entire West Bank to PLO control — precisely the reason the Left wanted the wall.
Ehud Barak had been one of the original promoters of a security fence for the West Bank. Numerous Labor and Meretz politicians endorsed the idea. Amram Mitzna won the Labor party’s nomination to run for prime minister. He endorsed a security wall and unilateral withdrawal by Israel from the West Bank and Gaza. He was clobbered in the election by Ariel Sharon.
Endorsement of a security wall for Israel was so enthusiastic and widespread on the Left that only one possible development could have turned leftists against the idea — its adoption
by Ariel Sharon and the Likud.
While at first highly skeptical of the practicality of the wall and its ability to keep Palestinian savages from murdering Israelis, Sharon and his people were under enormous pressure to do something — anything — as the terrorist violence escalated. Sharon became convinced that it was worth giving the wall a try; better partial prevention of terrorist infiltration than none at all.
Targeted assassinations by Israel of Palestinian terrorist leaders escalated at the same time, resulting in a reduced number of terrorist attacks and creating the impression that the partially-completed wall was somehow responsible.
Shimon Peres cast the lone vote against the security fence when the Sharon cabinet approved it officially in June 2002. (He didn’t oppose it on principle — it was the fence’s location that troubled him. Peres and the Left wanted the fence to trace the old pre-1967 “Green Line,” signaling that Israel planned to turn over the entire area to the Palestinians.)
Within weeks of the cabinet vote, the Israeli Left, which had been united for years in favor of a wall, did a 180-degree reversal of direction of the sort not been seen since the signing of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact and its later collapse with the German invasion of Russia. Suddenly there was near opposition to the wall among Israeli leftists. Some even compared it to the walls around the Warsaw Ghetto, denouncing it as a racist way to “victimize” the poor innocent Palestinians. Others labeled it an “Apartheid Wall.”
From Opposition to Confrontation
The Left’s campaign against the wall has since moved beyond mere political rhetoric. In
recent weeks, teams of Israeli leftists, together with anti-Jewish “anarchists” and loony
communists from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), have been attacking the
fences that comprise parts of the wall and vandalizing them with wire cutters and other tools.
The ISM thugs have flocked to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where they devote
themselves to trying to prevent Israel from taking military action against the terrorists
who send suicide bombers into Israel. The ISM “peace activists” block roads, set up obstacles so tanks cannot operate, block soldiers trying to arrest terrorists or knock down houses of suicide bombers, and otherwise show how thoroughly they support Palestinian
In at least one case they hid arms for some Palestinian terrorists, and they have attempted to hide wanted terrorists in their offices. They make no secret of their desire to see the end of Israel. They endorse the use of terror against Jews. Two terrorists who carried out an atrocity in a Tel Aviv pub were hosted by the ISM the day before they carried out the murders. Some have suggested that ISM really stands for “I Support Murderers.”
The Israeli troops dealing with the hooligans have exhibited a degree of restraint in the face of violent provocateurs without comparison in the democratic world. I bet that if a crowd of hooligans attacked the fence surrounding Barbra Streisand’s mansion in Beverly Hills and tried to vandalize it, they would be mowed down without hesitation.
Over the past year, two ISM members became patron saints of terrorism. The better known is Rachel Corrie, a naive American-flag-burning, anti-Israel young extremist from Washington State. While trying to prevent Israeli heavy machinery from knocking down houses of terrorists and digging up tunnels used by Palestinians to smuggle in explosives, she placed herself in a position where the bulldozer driver could not see her. She was dragged down and crushed, and she died (probably as a result of the medical treatment she got from the PLO).
The other near-martyr of the ISM, Tom Hurndall, is currently being beatified in the UK. Israeli soldiers were on a mission last April in the Gaza border town of Rafiah when they came under PLO fire. Hurndall was there, like all ISM provocateurs, to interfere with Israeli military operations against terrorists. At the time of the shooting, Hurndall, along with other ISM members and local residents, planned to set up a “peace tent” on one of the nearby roads to
prevent IDF tank patrols from using it.
When the firefight began, Hurndall ran out into the street and was hit by a bullet in the crossfire. His supporters claim he was just trying to shoo some Arab children away from the battle zone. Given ISM behavior in the past, it is at least as plausible that he was planning to serve as a human shield for the terrorists doing the shooting. He was hit in the head and has been in a coma ever since.
Hurndall’s family and the ISM have gone on a crusade against Israel, claiming Tom was
intentionally shot down in cold blood. The same people have long claimed that Rachel Corrie
was killed deliberately, a victim of Israeli malice, rather than as a result of her own foolish recklessness. These folks have never come up with a good reason why Hurndall was running around in the middle of a firefight in the Gaza Strip in the first place, a firefight started by the very same Palestinian terrorists he was there to support and protect.
But things have gotten curiouser and curiouser. The raison d’etre of the ISM is to promote attacks on Jews and delegitimization of Zionism, but the main victim of their agitprop turns out to be a Bedouin Arab! Yes, it turns out that Hurndall was in fact shot by a Bedouin soldier serving in the Israel Defense Forces. Of course, you would never know that piece of information from reading the British press. (Many people don’t even know that Bedouins serve in the Israeli security forces.)
Too many on the Israeli Left take their cues from the Palestinian Authority, much the same way that communists in the late 1930’s and 1940’s took their cues from the Comintern. It bears repeating: No sooner had Sharon and the Likud begun construction of the security
wall than the Israeli Left and its amen choruses around the world started a coordinated
campaign against it.
For the longest time, a security wall was the preferred recipe for peace endorsed by nearly everyone on the Israeli Left. Today, the wall is labeled a colonial aggression, denounced by all progressive leftists and people for peace — people so opposed to it that they are willing to
risk prison, tear gas, and getting shot in the legs to tear it down or rip holes in it.
Uncle Joe Stalin would be proud.
Steven Plaut is a professor at Haifa University. His book ”The Scout” is available
at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Growing up, I always found one of the most bizarre things in history to be the dramatic