what ways has the Left betrayed the Jews and Israel?
since the late 1940s, the Communist regimes in the Soviet Union and eastern
Europe, through their cynical exploitation of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism,
not only betrayed the Jews but their own self-proclaimed ideals of equality,
social justice and opposition to racism. This betrayal continued with the new
Left in the 1970s, the anti-globalists and much of the academic Left (in the US
as well as in Europe) in our own day. They have demonized and systematically
denigrated Israel as if it were the Devil incarnate, the anti-Christ of our
time, the ultimate expression of racist oppression.
your analysis been informed by your early life in the USSR?
was much too young to be directly influenced since my parents were repatriated
to Poland only a few years after the end of WWII. But my father had twice been
imprisoned by the NKVD (Soviet secret police) and his experiences probably
inoculated me against any illusions about the “Soviet paradise.” But it was my
own direct experience when trapped as a tourist in Prague (at the time of the
1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia) which did leave an indelible negative
impression of Communism.
do you think that the Left is so anti-Israel? What are the roots?
my new book clearly demonstrates, the ideological sources of left-wing
anti-Israelism go back to the late-19th-century emergence of political Zionism.
Already then, many socialist ideologues, following Karl Marx, treated the Jews
as if they were a phantom nationality, a caste of greedy exploiters whose only
real religion was predatory capitalism. These leftists believed that the advent
of socialism would abolish not only capitalism but Jewry itself. Neither
happened. The establishment of Israel proved their prognosis to be hopelessly
wrong. So, what are they left with? Mindless, irrational denigration! The
Marxist Left in particular is incapable of escaping from its own self-created
why does the Left identify with Palestinian jihadists, whose values – at least
outwardly – seem so very different?
Left has always tended to identify with those whom they designate as “the poor,”
the “proletariat” or the hapless victims of the capitalist system. However, the
international proletariat did not live up to Marxian expectations as the “chosen
class” of world history – while the Communist bloc collapsed in 1989-91. The
Palestinians represent a substitute form of redemption for all these failed
hopes – the prologue and catalyst for a new revolutionary would-be upheaval.
And there is always the additional attraction that the Palestinians are
fighting the Jews – or rather “The Zionists.” Ergo, they must be supported.
the jihadi component?
A. In From Ambivalence to Betrayal, I show
that already in the 1920s, Moscow tried (unsuccessfully) to “Bolshevize” the
Muslim masses in the East, especially in Palestine. They proposed a “Red Jihad”
against Western imperialism and Zionism. There was some common ground. Both
Marxists and Islamists divide the world in a simplistic Manichean fashion
between forces of light and darkness, ruthless imperialists and downtrodden masses,
between oppressors and oppressed. Jihad does have revolutionary potential and
can meet Marxist requirements with the help of some dialectical juggling.
Moreover, once Palestinians are defined as the absolute victims (a convenient fiction), then Zionists must
necessarily be branded as absolute
perpetrators and accused of committing “genocide” against them. But as I
demonstrate, this is a fantasy-view. Despite its great popularity today, it is
really just a “softer” remake of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories so beloved by
Nazis and fascists.
why are so many Jews attracted to the Left, despite such attitudes?
are several possible explanations. There is, of course, the Biblical tradition
(embodied in Moses and the Prophets) of pursuing justice, righteousness and
compassion for the poor – embedded in the Jewish cultural DNA. Then there is
Jewish social marginality before the 19th century and the relentless
persecution over centuries, which made Jews into archetypal victims and
outsiders. However, in America and the West (including Israel) where Jews have “made
it” they still often “vote like the poor.” Sometimes it even seems that Jews
are stuck in a time-warp which makes them always see the enemy on the Right –
while remaining blind in the left eye. I do hope that my book will be an
eye-opener in that respect.
this history the reason why so many Jews recently voted for Obama?
Jews are suckers for what we might call “compassionism” and especially for
humanitarian appeals, in sharp contrast to the grotesque anti-Semitic
stereotype (on the Right and the Left) of Jewish “huckstering” and rapacity.
Compassion is fine, even admirable in many ways. But making an ideology out of it is highly suspect.
Some of the worst crimes in modern history have been committed in the name of
human rights, solidarity, and defense of the poor – as the record of
Soviet-style Communism unmistakably shows. Obama, in American domestic terms,
is pretty much a leftist, and Jews as good Liberal Democrats naturally
gravitate to him in the United States. It’s proving hard to shift those habits.
do you say the creation of Israel was a “slap in the face to the Marxist
analysis of the ‘Jewish Question?’”
according to Marxism, the Jews should long ago have disappeared as a nation! An
influential sector of the Left, long before Israel’s creation, regarded Zionism
as an illegitimate “backward” and reactionary movement. It is true that for a
time much of the Left did support Israel (between 1947 and 1967) as long as
they could see Jews primarily as poor, persecuted, downtrodden refugees of the
Holocaust who were building a “socialist” country of their own. What they could
not stomach was a proud, independent, Jewishly self-affirming and militarily
efficient Israel able to strike back at (Arab) enemies hell-bent on its
destruction. Weeping over dead Jews is fine, but real, living, flesh-and-blood
Israelis who vigorously defend their right to exist is apparently, for many on
the Left (including some Jews), just too much to take. I would see that
attitude as a form of latent, undeclared anti-Semitism. As for Obama, his whole
mind-set and natural inclinations seem to me to reflect a kind of Third
Worldist ideology. Hence, the retreat from American global supremacy. However,
his hostility towards Netanyahu is truly stunning and, I think, ill-advised.
Most Israelis are not stupid and they sense the US President’s obvious coldness
to their cause, even as he embraces some of their worst enemies, like Egypt’s
President Morsi and the Turkish leader, Erdogan (both of whom are fairly rabid
on from that, how then do you explain the refusal to address Islamic
Jew-hatred, surely the greatest threat the Jewish people currently faces?
are several dangerous strands of self-delusion involved in this refusal. At a
more general level there is the notorious inability of Western liberals to
internalize the fact that the Iranians and the radical Arab Islamists really
mean what they say when they talk about annihilating the Jews, destroying
Israel, bringing down America and establishing Islamic supremacy. There is a
real failure to grasp the determination of such “true believers” to act on
their fanatical principles, despite the overwhelming evidence before our eyes.
Precisely the same failure was visible in Western (and Soviet) appeasement of
Hitler in the 1930s. Remember that even The
New York Times was largely in denial about the Holocaust all through the
war years. It simply buried the story in the back pages. Today, the liberal
media are still whitewashing the Islamo-fascist threat and instead, like so
many other deluded liberal voices, they prefer to bash Israel, even though it
remains the only authentic democracy in the region. This is bad enough. But
there is also a lot of ridiculous posturing in such fashionable positions. For
instance, the need to appear as “politically correct” and, above all, not to be
vilified as “racist” or as an “Islamophobe.” There are those out there, for
whom any critical comments about Islam are a kind of thought-crime. Moreover,
since the Western media prefer to remain largely silent about the endemic and
vicious Jew-hatred in the Islamic world (while grossly inflating or
manufacturing Israel’s fictitious “crimes”), ordinary people – including way
too many Jews – have little idea about its genocidal nature. Worse still, even
when they know, there is a clear inclination to suppress unpleasant truths
rather than face up to them. To stand up to this reality has become an act of
real courage in our inverted world.
then do you see Israel’s prospects, surrounded as it is by Islamic supremacists
and the threat of annihilation?
live in dangerous times, not only for Israel but for the whole world, including
America. In my previous book, A Lethal
Obsession (2010), I predicted that the rising tide of Islamist
fundamentalism would sweep the Arab Middle East. It is a most telling symptom
of its deep sickness rather than a solution. There is, unfortunately, no quick
fix or instant therapy for the Arab world. Look at Syria, Iraq, and Egypt. Democracy
is not around the corner nor can it offer much to the hungry Arab masses as
long as there is no stable middle-class, no functioning civil society, no way
to clean out massive corruption and defuse the toxic incitement and hatred of
Israel and the West that is so prevalent. The Jewish State is an oasis of
freedom, economic growth, cultural creativity, scientific innovation, military
skills and robust democratic values in this desert. It will ride out the storm
despite the malevolence and nihilistic self-destructiveness of its enemies,
including the Palestinian Hamas. It is, however, vital for the West – and above
all America – to stand by its commitments to Israel’s security out of its own
interests in regional stability, its good name, and its self-proclaimed mission
as a beacon of freedom to the world. Israel has upheld similar values in the
face of great adversity. For if America and Europe were to abandon the Jews
once more, the damage to Western civilization would, in my view, be