web analytics
October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Leftist Jews And The Longing For Victimhood


In an essay published in the Jewish magazine Tikkun last January, Bertell Ollman, one of the world’s best-known Marxist theorists, recounted how, on his way into the operating room, he realized that if he did not survive his surgery, he would die a Jew. The prospect was so unsettling that, once healed, he wrote his letter of resignation from the Jewish people. The reasons were Zionism, Israel, and the support its policies enjoy from other Jews.

Ollman might yet reconsider, but for that to happen, Jews would have to embrace his own version of Jewish identity. Paraphrasing a Lenny Bruce joke, he said: “Noam Chomsky, Mordechai Vanunu and Edward Said are Jewish. Elie Wiesel is goyish. So, too, all ‘Jewish’ neo-cons. Socialism and communism are Jewish. Sharon and Zionism are very goyish. And, who knows, if this reading of Judaism were to take hold, I may one day apply for readmission to the Jewish people.”

Of Ollman’s trinity, Chomsky is the only halachic Jew, but he qualifies more for his anti-Israel venom than for his devotion to his ancestry’s traditions. Vanunu is a convert to Anglicanism and his alienation goes as far as refusing to speak Hebrew, his mother tongue. Said was not Jewish, though he was the darling of many anti-Zionist Jewish intellectuals.

So what makes Chomsky, Vanunu and Said “authentic” Jews, then? For Ollman, it’s their adherence to a political orthodoxy: being Jewish equals being a certain type of progressive intellectual.

*     *     *         Ollman may sound outlandish. But he is not alone. Since the beginning of the second intifada in September 2000, prominent Jews criticizing Israel have become louder and more assertive. Increasingly frequently, they feel it is not enough to denounce Israel’s policies publicly – they must do so “as Jews.” And going even further, they routinely renounce Israel itself as part of their identity, and appeal to other Jews to do the same. In some cases, despite the secularism of their proponents, these appeals feature the salvation language of Christianity.

Israel’s creation is dubbed “original sin” or derided as not exactly “an immaculate conception.” Jews, formerly “blinded” by the Zionist narrative, should “see the truth” and forgo Zionism as a “redeeming” act that will ensure “justice and reconciliation” with Palestinians. And so on.

What is behind this trend?

It started with Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm who suggested, long ago, that Jewish identity need not include religion, language, culture, tradition, historic background, kinship, or what he deemed “a certain attitude toward the Jewish state.” That doesn’t leave much, other than being part of the Left.

The change was really spelled out, though, in late 2001, when the Italian columnist Barbara Spinelli wrote that today’s ultra-nationalist Israel constitutes nothing less than a “scandal.” And it is a scandal, above all, for Jews themselves, since, as everyone knows, Jews are the quintessential victims of modern nationalism (nationalism being, for Spinelli as other likeminded intellectuals, virtually coterminous with Nazism).

It follows, then, that Jews everywhere have a special duty to speak out against Israel, to apologize to its victims, and to do so publicly.

“If one thing is missing in Judaism,” Spinelli wrote, “this is precisely it: a mea culpa vis-à-vis the peoples and individuals who had to pay the price of blood and exile to allow Israel to exist.”

She called upon world Jewry to undertake such an act of contrition forthwith:

“If the initiative does not come from Jerusalem then it should start in the diaspora, where so many Jews live a double and contradictory loyalty: to Israel, and to the state they belong to and vote in. A solemn mea culpa, proclaimed from the scattered communities in the West.”

No one can accuse Jewish intellectuals of being deaf to these calls. For the most part, those answering them have been not the long-term, all-out, rabid haters of Israel, who need no excuse and waste no pieties in reviling the Jewish state. Our heroes are of a somewhat different complexion. Not only do they tend to speak more circumspectly but, with whatever degree of disingenuousness, they cloak their hostility to Jewish nationalism (i.e., Israel) in the mantle of solicitude for, precisely, the good name of Jews and Judaism.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Leftist Jews And The Longing For Victimhood”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Do you know where your vegetables grow?
Not So Kosher Shemittah L’Mehadrin
Latest Indepth Stories
Eller-102414-Cart

I had to hire a babysitter so that I could go shopping or have someone come with me to push Caroline in her wheelchair.

Bills to restore the balance of power in Israel will be fought by the not-so-judicial left.

Widespread agreement in Israel opposing Palestinian diplomatic warfare, commonly called “lawfare.”

Chaye Zisel Braun

Arab terrorism against Jews and the State of Israel is not something we should be “calm” about.

Peace Now Chairman Yariv Oppenheimer

The Israeli left, led by tenured academics, endorses pretty much anything harmful to its own country

We were devastated: The exploitation of our father’s murder as a vehicle for political commentary.

Judea and Samaria (Yesha) have been governed by the IDF and not officially under Israeli sovereignty

While not all criticism of Israel stemmed from anti-Semitism, Podhoretz contends the level of animosity towards Israel rises exponentially the farther left one moved along the spectrum.

n past decades, Oman has struck a diplomatic balance between Saudi Arabia, the West, and Iran.

The Torah scroll which my family donated will ride aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier

The Jewish Press endorses the reelection of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. His record as governor these past four years offers eloquent testimony to the experience and vision he has to lead the Empire State for the next four years.

I think Seth Lipsky is amazing, but it just drives home the point that newspapers have a lot of moving parts.

Myth #1: It is easy to be a B’nai Noach. It is extraordinarily hard to be a B’nai Noach.

The question of anti-Semitism in Europe today is truly tied to the issue of immigration.

Polls indicate that the Palestinians are much more against a two state solution than the Israelis.

More Articles from Emaunuele Ottolenghi

In an essay published in the Jewish magazine Tikkun last January, Bertell Ollman, one of the world’s best-known Marxist theorists, recounted how, on his way into the operating room, he realized that if he did not survive his surgery, he would die a Jew. The prospect was so unsettling that, once healed, he wrote his letter of resignation from the Jewish people. The reasons were Zionism, Israel, and the support its policies enjoy from other Jews.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/leftist-jews-and-the-longing-for-victimhood/2007/10/10/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: