Monday, August 01, 2005

Leftism and Anti-semitism

Neo-neocon considers the "root cause" of the Presbyterian Church USA leadership's call for divestment from Israel: anti-semitism or "merely" fashionable leftism? My initial instinct was to disagree with her, and to suggest that no mere sanctimonious or self-congratulatory pose of victimology could explain or excuse the many errors of fact, lapses of logic, and fundamental lopsidedness of the divestment effort. This impulse was bolstered by my recollection of the long history of the Arab boycott campaign, and its relation to the unremitting effort of the Arab nations to eradicate the lone Jewish state. On the other hand, a perusal of the PCUSA (fitting acronym, no?) website supported the notion that these people were too woolly-headed to be hardcore anti-semites.

Upon reflection, however, I think neo has hit upon an uncomfortable reality that has been explored at some length (see links here), and yet still not enough: there is an intrinsic ideological link between contemporary Leftism and the new Anti-semitism. (It is important to emphasize that this is not meant to tar individual leftists, many of whom are well-meaning if misguided, but to expose the intellectual currents that unavoidably underly today's discourse).

As noted in "Anti-Globalization, the New Anti-Semitism,"
Controversial right-wing Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi notes a "strange unanimity" between Islamic terrorism and anti-globalization protestors -- both "enemies of Western civilization."
although the authors curiously attempt to soften this conclusion in the remainder of the quote below, it is clear that they are pointing out a classic chicken-and-egg example of reciprocally-reinforcing influences:


This is overstepping the mark. The association between the Arab world and the anti-globalization movement has its roots in a common opposition to American "domination." Israel and the Jews represent American capitalism. Thus attacking Israel gives the movement a good excuse to vent its anti-Semitic frustrations.
In his essential thesis on the new anti-Semitism, Natan Sharansky quickly dismisses the root cause-ism of those, presumably including the PCUSA leaders, who would point to Ariel Sharon as the instigator of Jew-hatred:


The Jewish state is no more the cause of anti-Semitism today than the absence of a Jewish state was its cause a century ago.
Sharansky goes on to show that fear of Jews as carriers of frightening ideas, such as monotheism, individualism, personal responsibility for moral choices (for an excellent exegesis, see here), has been at the root of anti-Semitism for 3000 years, and has only become worse.


The Jews were the only people seriously to challenge the moral system of the Greeks. They were not an "other" in the ancient world; they were the "other"--an other, moreover, steadfast in the conviction that Judaism represented not only a different way of life but, in a word, the truth... The (by and large correct) perception of the Jews as rejecting the prevailing value system of the ancient world hardly justifies the anti-Semitism directed against them; but it does take anti-Semitism out of the realm of fantasy, turning it into a genuine clash of ideals and of values.

Now, which contemporary American political movement is fundamentally opposed to monotheism, individualism, personal responsibility for moral choices? Sharansky makes the link explicit:
Decades before "occupation" became a household word, the mood in European chancelleries and on the left turned decidedly hostile... as anti-Western, anti-"imperialist," pacifist and pro-liberationist sentiments, fanned and often subsidized by the U.S.S.R., took over the advanced political culture... Behind the new hostility to Israel lay the new ideological orthodoxy, according to whose categories the Jewish state had emerged on the world scene as a certified "colonial" and "imperialist" power, a "hegemon" and an "oppressor."

And then closes the link between Leftism, anti-Americanism, and anti-Semitism:
Despite the differences between them, however, anti-Americanism in the Islamic world and anti-Americanism in Europe are in fact linked, and both bear an uncanny resemblance to anti-Semitism. It is, after all, with some reason that the United States is loathed and feared by the despots and fundamentalists of the Islamic world as well as by many Europeans. Like Israel, but in a much more powerful way, America embodies a different--a nonconforming--idea of the good, and refuses to abandon its moral clarity about the objective worth of that idea or of the free habits and institutions to which it has given birth.

5 Comments:

Blogger Dreamer said...

Isn't this an extension of the animosity between the "haves" and the "have nots?"

12:26 AM  
Blogger Goesh said...

Excellent point about the pogroms and holocaust occuring long before Israel the nation existed. I've long pondered this form of evil, this anti-semitism. It essentially boils down to 1.6 billion muslims against a few million Jews, and X number of non-muslims against them as well. The general alignment of the American left with essentially the same mind-set of the muslims is alarming and dangerous, especially in light of the fact that the left is educated. Don't the demographic numbers mean a thing to the left? I thought they were prone to be supportive of minorities? Surely they don't suscribe to the notion of Israel being but a welfare recipient of the US, when muslim oil money is available for any and all anti-Jew activities? Do they pooh-pooh and say the US arms Israel, therefore Israel would not exist without said armament, when it was Soviet weaponry behind the attempted invasions of Israel? They often refer to the palestinians as an oppressed people, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that they are a most murderous, vicious people who want Jews eradicated. I am just not entirely convinced that the liberal attachment to the vicious ideology of islam against the Jews is part and parcel of anti-Americanism. I think beneath the liberal veneer of education and modernism lurks some very primitive scape-goating and blatant racism.

7:11 AM  
Blogger ShrinkWrapped said...

The left beleives they have the "Truth" and only the intransigence of conservatives, other oppressors, and counter-revolutionaries have kept them from achieving the pardise on earth they have for so long promised. American democracy, and Israeli democracy, based on the clash of ideas, is anathema to all who imagine themselves to have a monopoly on the Truth. The Islamic fascists, like fascists in the past, are natural allies against the greater danger Jews and Americans represent.

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Independent George said...

i can't remember who wrote it, but I read an essay somewhere that theorized the ultimate weakness of globalization to be the fact that because economic gains will inevitably be distributed unevenly, it necessarily means that a minority will gain wealth within a globalizing society. Human nature being what it is, that minority will be immediately be viewed as thieves stealing what rightfully belongs to the majority, regardless of what they did to earn their wealth. The test of globalization is if the society has the institutions to weather that backlash.

This is exactly what happened to the Indians in Africa, the Chinese in Malaysia & Indonesia, and the Jews in, well, every country they've ever been in. The difference is that the Indians & Chinese have very large, powerful nations with long histories behind them. The Jews are a minority even in their own country.

9:09 AM  
Anonymous Independent George said...

Of course, this leaves out the one notable exception to this rule: America. What others describe as crude materialism is actually quite a positive trait to immigrants (such as my own family): regardless of our race or background, if we succeed here, we are a success. Period.

The thing that's always amused (bothered? annoyed?) me about the 'left' is that their view of cultural superiority ahead of the material is ultimately more elitist and exclusive than the crass capitalism they decry.

9:20 AM  

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