Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Danger on the Left


January 18, 2019

By Kenneth Hanson

Not long ago I was privileged to take part in a panel discussion on the history of anti-Semitism. The shared comments of the panelists, I felt, yielded a considerable wealth of insight, until the notion was advanced that anti-Semitism is at its core a product of the political right. To this assertion I felt compelled to take exception. I had just been reading an article regarding various fallacies connected with anti-Semitism, one fallacy in particular being that it derives exclusively from the political right wing. I instantly asked myself: from whence did this curious concept arise, and why is it so apparently pandemic in contemporary society? I proceeded to quote the article, which I had brought with me, pointing out that anti-Semitism crosses all political barriers and is equally present on the left as on the right. After the heated exchanges of that evening, I determined that this issue deserves considerably more thought and attention, especially as Israel finds itself increasingly beleaguered and marginalized in the international community.

Looking back through history, there is no question that the great monarchal houses of Europe were anti-Semitic to the core, especially considering the waves of national expulsion of Jews they fomented at nearly perfect century intervals, in England, France, and the great expulsion from Spain in 1492. Nor should we forget the czars of Russia, who did everything in their power to eliminate Jewish identity from the motherland, including the restriction of Jewish residents to an enormous tract of territory in western Russia known as the Pale of Settlement. The czars, like all great monarchs of the day, represented centralized governmental power and authority. I suppose we should therefore categorize them as “right wingers.” It comes as no surprise that so many Jews of the 19th century became enamored with the political “left” of those days, intent as they were on the violent overthrow of the czarist regime. It is undeniable, however, that the communist left, which ultimately replaced the czars with their own breed of dictatorial tyrants, were just as intent on suppressing and eliminating Jewish identity as their czarist predecessors.

It was the European Enlightenment that represented what we could well call “classical liberalism,” which in turn championed individual liberty and basic human rights. It defined citizenship not in terms of allegiance to a crowned monarch or a royal house but to the nation-state, what the French revolutionaries would call the Fatherland—La Patrie—from whence derived the term “patriotism.” The growing concept of nationalism is exactly what gave rise to Theodore Herzl’s Zionist dream. But liberalism today is far removed from the “classical liberalism” which spawned it. It has become the centralized state that it originally abhorred. It is “big government” on proverbial steroids, and it is just as capable of suppressing Jewish interests—the Jewish state in particular—as the “right wing” monarchs of centuries past.

Notwithstanding the serious acts of anti-Semitic violence (such as the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre), perpetrated by those identified as “right wingers,” it goes without saying that the state of Israel is in the crosshairs of a sizable component of the political left. Israel is, after all, a bona-fide nation-state; yet, for the 21st century’s new breed of progressives, the nation-state itself must “wither away.” The obvious reason is the embrace, not only of a socialist, but a utopian Marxist paradigm, including the elimination of borders and of national sovereignty, the very things essential to a tiny country like Israel, surrounded by adversaries. The far left visionaries of today clearly despise what Israel represents: A nation-state that zealously guards its borders and, most scandalously, cares about its ethnic composition and identity. True, anti-Semitism still rages on the fringe right, but “anti-Israelism” is increasingly becoming a central component of the ideological left.

Many early Zionists were considered to have been on the political left of their day; yet, even if Theodore Herzl had succeeded in establishing a Jewish state, not in Palestine but in Argentina or Uganda (ideas actually floated at the Zionist Congresses), would the condemnation from today’s left have been any less severe, as long as such a state were designed for Jews, who would theoretically be privileged above Argentinians or Ugandans? It stands to reason that even if a Palestinian state is one day established in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, the anti-Israel voices on the left will not be assuaged.

The Israeli left (who dominate the media in Israel) are fond of arguing that the formation of a Palestinian state is the only way to insure that Israel remain both Jewish and democratic. Has anyone pointed out to them that this “two-state solution” would in fact solve nothing, for as long as Israel is Jewish—as long as it is Israel—it will forever be deemed nothing short of “racist” by the hard left, internationally. After all, the mantra of today’s left is multiculturalism, which goes by the slick monicker “diversity.” A Jewish state by its very nature is thought to privilege Jews over other ethnicities. It can never be reconciled with the doctrinaire left. The only ethnic groups given a pass on the diversity test are those officially deemed “oppressed.” That includes the nascent state of “Palestine,” which will by definition be officially Judenrein. That of course, is just fine.

On a personal level, the “diversity delusion” has been so widely taught and disseminated in today’s educational system that a few undergraduate students have argued in my classes that there should be no state of Israel at all, that there should be imposed upon the region a multiethnic state of Arabs, Jews and Christians with no preference given to anyone. It is a neo-Marxist utopia to which young minds can easily give assent. Unfortunately, the real world is by no means utopian, and is not likely to become so any time soon, most likely until the mashiakh comes. Is it fair to call any of this ideology anti-Semitic? Of course not, claim its proponents. It is sadly ironic, however, that the very leftist ideology which claims to respect all cultures and ethnicities is perfectly prepared, in the name of diversity, to devastate Jewish ethnicity by eliminating its state.

The only options for Israel are to slowly surrender sovereignty to an international cabal, or to stand up for Jewish rights to a land inhabited by Israelites two millennia ago, until they were crushed by a succession of invading Romans, Byzantines and Arab conquerors. Thankfully, the current Israeli government is headed by an individual who sees the world, with all its attendant anti-Semitic threats (from right, left, and from militant Islam), as it is, not as neo-Marxist ideologues would wish it to be. The case Bibi Netanyahu makes is reasoned, clear-eyed and courageous, enough to propel him to Churchillian stature. Unfortunately, Israel’s diversity-centric foes are not likely to be persuaded, regardless of sound arguments. People nonetheless respond to those who, like Bibi, see the world not in terms of grey pastels and moral relativism, but in terms of good and right and virtue as a bulwark against a multitude of bad actors. That includes the anti-Semitic/ anti-Israel sentiment on the left as well as on the right. Israel is simply not prepared to commit suicide so that the world will think well of it. Reasoned argumentation may not be a silver bullet, but it is the best weapon we have, and we must continue to use it.

Kenneth Hanson, Ph.D., is a scholar of Hebrew language and literature, the history of biblical lands, and Jewish and early Christian culture. He is the author of six books. View his YouTube courses at https://bit.ly/1R3YlBm.


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