May 3, 2016

THE LEFT IS THE RIGHT:

Anti-Semitism From the Left (Ian Buruma, 5/02/16, Project Syndicate)

[A] streak of anti-Semitism has always tainted the left as well. Stalin was of course notorious for persecuting Jews, or "rootless cosmopolitans" as he called them, whom he regarded as natural agents of capitalism and traitors to the Soviet Union. But well before Stalin, Karl Marx himself, although Jewish by birth, set the tone for a vicious type of anti-Semitism that infected the left, especially in France.

It was Marx who wrote, "Money is the jealous God of Israel," and that Hebrew was "the muse of stock exchange quotations." Marx was not oblivious to the dangers of anti-Semitism. He simply thought they would go away once the worker's paradise had been established. In this, he was clearly mistaken.

When the state of Israel was founded in 1948, the Soviet Union and leftists in general were quite sympathetic. For several decades, socialists of Russian and Polish extraction dominated Israeli politics. Zionism was not yet regarded as a noxious form of racism, along with apartheid in South Africa. There was no need to "hate the Jews in Israel."

Things began to change in the early 1970s, after the occupation of the West Bank and other Arab territories. Two intifadas later, the Israeli left finally lost its grip, and the right took over. Israel became increasingly associated with the very things leftists had always opposed: colonialism, oppression of a minority, militarism, and chauvinism. For some people, it was perhaps a relief that they could hate Jews again, this time under the guise of high-minded principles.

At the same time, and for much the same reasons, Israel became popular on the right. People who might have been fervent anti-Semites not so long ago are now great champions of Israel. They applaud the Israeli government's tough line with the Palestinians.

Israel, in a common right-wing view, is a bastion of "Judeo-Christian civilization" in the "war against Islam." As the Dutch demagogue Geert Wilders once put it: "When the flag of Israel no longer flies over the walls of Jerusalem, the West will no longer be free."

It is remarkable how often the old anti-Semitic tropes turn up in the rhetoric of these cheerleaders for Israel. But this time it is Muslims, not Jews, who are the target. Muslims in the West, we are repeatedly told, can never be loyal citizens. They always stick to their own kind. They will lie to people outside their faith. They are naturally treacherous, a fifth column, bent on world domination. Their religion is incompatible with Western values. And so forth.

We all want someone to hate.

Posted by at May 3, 2016 6:45 PM

  

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