Whose Left on the Right of Antisemitism

It has been only the convergence of many demands – including the work of return home to Los Angeles – that has so long delayed the the next installment of “The Open Mind” debates, what The New York Times and Wall Street Journal have called – well, they haven’t actually called them anything yet. But just you wait.

The next real entry in the series appears next Monday, as a digestif for your Thanksgiving overload. As a cocktail, here is today’s post from Shrinkwrapped, with my deft and definitive rejoinder in his comments section available beneath it.

Jews, the Left and Anti-Semitism

In the last election 75% of American Jews voted for Barack Obama, primarily because he had the most liberal voting record in the Senate and was a minority.  In opposition to his support among the American Jewish population were the less well emphasized points, that he had a long history of closeness with minimally disguised and often overt anti-Semites, and that his inner circle was populated by people with longstanding positions inimical to Israel.  None of this is news.  Jews have been among the most reliably liberal voting blocs at least since the 1960s and there has been a significant delinkage of interests between secular American Jews and Israel over the last 30-40 years.  However, the marriage of Judaism and liberal politics is coming under increasing pressure.  It is quite possible that American Jews will be forced to choose between their liberalism and their Jewish identities in the not too distant future.

[I strongly suspect that most Jewish liberalism is a matter of temperament and emotion rather than any particularly well refined political philosophy.  Jews, out of a mix of their history with their envy, fears of evoking envy, and a while host of other affective experiences, identify with those who can be seen as victims.  Even the most secular Jew grows up in a culture in which Tikkun Olum, ie improving the world, is an implicit substrate.  When combined with the post-baby boom narcissism that comes with ease and material success in America, such feelings collide and a stance supportive of using government to improve the lot of the less fortunate comes naturally.  Most liberal Jews are much more comfortable paying higher taxes than actually living among the less fortunate.  (This is why houses in Scarsdale, am almost wholly white suburban town cost a multiple of similar homes in New Rochelle, an integrated town complete with projects.)

However, I don’t mean this to be an explication of Jewish liberalism, John Podhoretz (Why Are Jews Liberals?) has already given a fair amount of thought to the question and I hope to review his book at some future time.]

Anti-Semitism and Leftism are inextricably linked.  Every generation Jewish leftists find this out anew’ every generation Jews are surprised at the intensity and persistence of Left wing anti-Semitism.

In many ways, the left must be anti-Semitic, just as they must be anti-American.  After all, part of their core philosophy is that in the perfect state of society under any particular iteration of left ideology, people will naturally all fall within a fairly narrow range of outcomes.  Whether explicit under communism (“from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”) to the watered down versions of ensuring equal outcomes under liberal affirmative action, those on the left by philosophy or temperament are uncomfortable or antagonistic toward those who range too far from the mean.

For reasons not worth entertaining now, Jews have historically been successful wherever they have resided.  When Jews are visibly over-represented in the media, Hollywood, government, finance, etc, it is hard to miss.  (As a bonus, when Jews predominate in the media they tend to skew the attention of the media to those “newsworthy” items that are of interest to them and those who are like them.  If Israel were a normal country, the attention paid to it would be minimal.  After all, there were far worse atrocities committed in Chechnya by the Russians than anything Israel did in Gaza, yet the world’s attention was riveted by the Israeli incursion into Gaza.)

Beyond the ideological problems with a visible group that is highly successfully (and the covert implication that any group thus successful must be taking advantage of either unfair advantages or must be leveraging their success over the failures and efforts of those they have oppressed) there is the historical, and always available, anti-Semitism that is easily exploited by those who need scapegoats for their own failures.

And this leads to the inevitable clash for the Jew and the Left.  Once allied with a left wing tribe, such as the Democratic party, tribal feelings become powerful perceptual screens.  In other words, once allied with a party (tribe) anything that the party supports is first perceived through the filter of the party line and only then can any critical thought take place.  Thus, for those who do not pay close attention, the party line that Israeli settlements is the major obstacle to peace in the Mideast is uncritically accepted since it so easily passes through the tribal filter.  It then requires affirmative work to gain a deeper understanding of the issues involved.  At the moment most American Jews are continuing to go along with the Obama Democratic party position.  This can only hold as long as the majority of American Jews remain ignorant of the depths of anti-Semitism on the Left and at the core of their party.

The conflict is currently appearing in statu nascendi for my blog friend and rival Jay Adler*.  He is correctly horrified by the vilification of Israel that is a prominent feature of the international community and press.  (He does not want to close his eyes to The Faces of Evil and wonders Who Will Watch the Watchers II.)  What is particularly troubling, and should trouble Jay is that 20% of the Democrats in Congress not only want to close their eyes but refuse to recognize injustice when it seems obvious:

What a difference 35 years make

In an October 1974 cable to Democratic Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, following passage of his legislation helping Soviet Jews emigrate, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yigal Allon wrote that “your efforts in this matter manifest once again your deep understanding of our needs and your constant support of the cause of Israel.” What a difference 35 years make.

Nowadays, liberal members of Jackson’s party routinely cast votes against Israel, while the leftist commentators supporting them relish vilifying the Jewish state. Whether it’s blasting the settlements, criticizing Israel’s Lebanon or Gaza conflicts, or deferring sanctions on Iran, the American Left is more unified than ever in its opposition to Israel and its policies.

Nowhere has this disturbing trend emerged more clearly than in the recent debate in the US House of Representatives over a resolution calling on the president to “oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration of the ‘Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’ in multilateral fora.”

The resolution chastises the UN Human Rights Council for “one-sidedly mandating the ‘fact-finding mission'” by Justice Richard Goldstone to focus only on supposed Israeli wrongdoing while “mak[ing] no mention of the relentless rocket and mortar attacks…by Hamas and other violent militant groups in Gaza against civilian targets in Israel.” It recites in painstaking detail the myriad factual, inferential, and legal errors that readers of this page well know render Goldstone’s report fatally flawed.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, earned an overwhelming 344 votes. But 36 members of Congress, all but three of them Democrats, voted against the resolution, while another 20 members voted “present,” or abstained; thus, more than 20% of Democrats refused to support the bill.

SO WHAT’S motivating these Democrats, almost all of them from the party’s liberal wing, to stand up for the Goldstone Report?

Being a little anti-Semitic is like being a little pregnant.  Unless the monstrous fetus of anti-Semitism is terminated, it will one day turn upon and devour its parents (including those Jews who have aided and abetted its germination.)  Anti-Semitism is already deeply embedded in many of our institutions:

Columbia and Rutgers funded by Iran-controlled group

An Islamic charity alleged to be a front for the Iranian regime has been funding anti-Israel and pro-Iran professors at Columbia and Rutgers Universities, the New York Post reported on Monday.

The Manhattan-based Alavi Foundation, which promotes Islamic charity and Persian education, has been accused by the American government of funneling money to U.S. schools supported by Iran and to a ring of Iranian spies in Europe, says The Post.

According to the report, the foundation has also given thousands of dollars to Columbia and Rutgers to fund its Middle Eastern and Persian studies programs.

“We found evidence that the government of Iran really controlled everything about the foundation,” Adam Kaufmann, investigations chief at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, told The Post.

The Post reported that the Alavi Foundation gave Columbia $100,000 in 2007, after the university agreed to host Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Columbia University spokesman Robert Hornsby told The Post that the money it received ahead of Ahmadinejad’s visit was the largest single gift it had received from the foundation. He also told The Post that the university had been unaware that the charity was directly linked to the Iranian government.

In addition, says the report, the foundation gave $351,600 to Rutgers from 2005-2007 to fund its Persian Studies Program. That allegation was corroborated by a spokesman for the university, but no other comment was offered on the matter.

U.S. agents have begun confiscating as much as $650 million in assets from the foundation, according to the report.

Right wing anti-Semitism in American (the KKK, John Birch Society)  long ago led to American Jews alienation from the Right, an alienation which, for too many, continues to this day.  Many Jews, despite the foreign experience of anti-Semitism being prevalent on the Left, have never imagined left wing anti-Semitism to exist.  Many will continue to close their eyes to the phenomenon.  There are those ideologically committed Jewish leftists who will continue to support the anti-Semites on the left in America.  However, those who refuse to remain blinkered will find it increasingly difficult to deny that at the core of the Left, and in many ways in the core of the current Democratic party, the rot of anti-Semitism has taken hold.

*My advice to Jay Adler is to continue our series of discussions (and I in no way equate his delay in returning to the fray to a paucity of decent arguments; that is tongue in cheek, Jay), continue your series of investigations into that particularly virulent form of oppression known as anti-Semitism, and remember that those of us who are on the Libertarian Right, aka Classical Liberals, will always welcome you whenever you are ready.

Anyway, SW, thanks for the links. You see I’ve added another. Your shekels are on the way. Hit you all up next week with a resumption of The Open Mind. I know I’ve been missed.

November 23, 2009 at 12:36 PM | Permalink


Judge Crater said…
“Anti-Semitism and Leftism are inextricably linked.”

That statement is taking me farther through the looking glass than I want to go. I guess if you go far enough down the rabbit hole names like Marx, Engels, Trotsky, David Ben-Gurion, Saul Alinsky, and dozens more have disappeared along with the Smoking Caterpillar.

Israel, the Jewish homeland, was conceived, created, and supported by Jewish leftists. It’s still a socialist state by any modern measure – certainly as socialist as France.

If history means anything, and maybe in right-wing wonderland is doesn’t, Jews, to their enduring credit, have been at the forefront of “leftist” philosophy and action. The fact that three-quarters of American Jews vote Democratic, and that there are ten Jewish Democratic members of the Senate and 25 in the House, is a bitter pill for Dr. Shrinkwrapped to swallow is regrettable.

But, believing fifty impossible things before breakfast, isn’t going to change it.

AJA said…

I’m sorry to dash (not I’m not) my “blog friend and rival’s” fantasy of my nascent recognition of bias against Israel and my slow walk across the Bridge of Spies, but my position on this subject (and the greater one of undemocratic forces in the world in general) is very longstanding and in no way (weep not, my friend) inimical to the essence of liberalism. I won’t reply at too great length because then we might as well share “open minds” on the subject (and perhaps we shall) – and Judge Crater has already recoiled with appropriate disbelief and fact-based summation at the fantasticality of “Anti-Semitism and Leftism are inextricably linked.”

Of course, there is a significant and growing problem with Antisemitism on the left, and its origins are not as simple as that basement lab conservative bromide. Over the twentieth century and beyond, depending upon the locale, it has partaken of various measures of Marxist transnationalism, postcolonial ideology, and deeply embedded cultural histories of Antisemitism. Over much longer history, however, Antisemitism everywhere has demonstrably been the sentiment and activity of nationalistic, conservative and reactionary forces in a society. That doesn’t alter the reality of the new threat, though.

I must add that I think Shrink is too quick to label reflexive and historically uninformed anti-Israeli political sentiments as Antisemitism. I do not hesitate drop a brickload on anti-Semites, but I do not think too readily conjoining the two is beneficial.

Finally, it’s curious how we are prone to filter reality through our predispositions. (Doesn’t SW sorta specialize in that phenomenon?) In any other consideration, an 80%-20% imbalance in a vote, on an issue, would be considered quite overwhelming. If you got that kind of vote for President you could be king, but by this calculus it’s a grip on “the core of the Democratic Party.” Now let me see, what percentage of Republican legislators were willing to state when asked that they rejected birtherism…?

6 thoughts on “Whose Left on the Right of Antisemitism

  1. Believe it or not, you are helping. I am guessing you are Jewish. Should I have known that by the name Adler? I didn’t.

    Jews shouldn’t have to justify this or that regarding what they consider Jewishness. Knowing the DNA connection is better than not knowing. As far as history is concened, I say whatever is true let it be known. Suppose the Khazar myth were true–even that wouldn’t discount the true Jewishness. I would prefer it be a myth.

    The only thing that bothers me about Israel, is that I think the Palestinians got a raw deal. Sorry, I am not anti-semitic. I am really sensitive about how that term is being used today by powerful groups like the ADL and the status quo media. Gentiles like myself often fear being labeled anti-semitic over very innocent and legitimate concerns. There was no anti-semitism in my upbringing at all.

    Jewishness does fascinate me ( in a possitive way.) But, I would rather not think of someone’s whateverness too much, because it gets in the way of their humanness. I am a “mutt” from european groups. Virginia is my only homeland as I was born there. Even that bothers me because Virginia was taken from the Native Americans and it was once a slave state. I don’t think I have a parallel identity to Jewish identity. I think it’s ok to want a national homeland. What would mine be, Ireland, England, France?

    1. I’m glad I’m helping, and I agree that all truths of history should be known. Adler is a German Jewish name, though my parentage is from Ukraine, so I’ve got that 12% chance, perhaps, of having some Khazararian mitochondrial DNA in me.

      I don’t think at all that you are anti-Semitic; you seem a person of genuine goodwill, with a desire for knowledge and justice. Norman Finkelstein, however, whom you cited in your first comment, is notoriously anti-Semitic, Jew or not. I will agree that the Palestinian people have had an awful time over these past 60 years. That it’s a “deal,” raw or not, handed to them by others, rather than the consequence of their own actions, I would have to dispute with you. It is not by any action of Israel that the Palestinians have not had their own nation, larger than Israel, for those 60 years. To know my position on this score, you might wish to read my post The Refusal.

      I agree that the charge of anti-Semitism is levied a bit too easily and frequently. There are people who think that. There are people who think the general charge of racism is too easily made. I also believe that peoples long subjected to hateful and discriminatory feeling from others are more sensitively attuned to it than are outsiders, and can perceive it when outsiders sense nothing. Racism is so often covert.

      You might be interested to know that I was in Virginia very recently, where we worked with the Pamunkey Indians on their reservation, the oldest in the nation. One older gentleman, about 75, with whom I spent time was a lovely and very good humored man. It was when I sat down to record an interview with him that he told me that white people had “treated me like shit” all of his life. He said that when his wife admonished him not to look back so much, he said to her, “You’ve had an operation. You have a scar. You ever look at that scar?”

  2. I wish I had the facts. I would like it to be true about the Khazar connection as you suggest. I am totally convinced Sephardic Jews are blood related to Israel’s past. I am still hesitant regarding the Ashkenazim Jews or Khazars(as I termed them) However, the DNA results might be revealing concerning human migrations in general. I would think migrations could be explained somewhat by the DNA tracking and cross-checking. But does this tell us of a migration in recent history(2000 years) or much earlier. What a tough assignment — to obtain confidence in such a study. I would think it would not be definitive. It really does not matter to me who is and who is not a Jew or whether it is an ethnicity or a religion or something else.
    I just don’t get the homeland thing. Palestine existed with Palestinians-some Muslim and some Christian. They are forced out of their homes to create a state for Jews from foreign lands. This based on Jewishness. And now the Palestinians are treated like the Native Americans were treated. Pushed and dominated into poverty and death. This based on what? Being God’s Chosen? Would someone explain it to me. It all was incorrect, immoral and violent. However, Israel is now there though, just as the US what it is now–so there is no turning back as that would be a second injustice.

    1. Here are two links on the genetic studies, the earliest in the cycle, published by the Academy of Science, and the latest, I believe, which finds a greater Khazar presence, but still concludes: “However, if the R-M17 chromosomes in Ashkenazi Jews do indeed represent the vestiges of the mysterious Khazars then, according to our data, this contribution was limited to either a single founder or a few closely related men, and does not exceed approx12% of the present-day Ashkenazim.” Of course, one issue, for Jews, is why we, of all people, need to have our genetic identity established. It’s always – if you’ll pardon my Aramaic – one fucking thing or another. But genetics is about as sound a science as there is now. Each study may not have been definitive (there have been more comprehensive analyses) but they have all been determinative, which is why I used that word originally. There is no doubting the genetic relations and ancient Middle Eastern origin of the Jewish people, including, by the way, their close genetic relationship to Palestinians. If people choose to question genetic science, in this case, then, again, a Jew has to wonder (and not too long).

      You don’t get the “homeland thing”? I don’t know where you’re coming from, whether you hold to what I would consider some form of Utopian political philosophy that rejects the very notion of nationalism, or if you are limiting your mystification to Jews and Israel. Jews want a homeland for the same reasons as everyone else, and might be fairly asked to transcend that petty human limitation when everyone else does, and not before. Another answer is to ask, with some surprise, how can you look at Jewish history – a millennial history of rootless (even when rooted) persecution as a scapegoated other – and not get why Jews decided it was time to have a homeland. But the primary answer is that the land is the historic Jewish homeland. The situation is not remotely comparable to Europeans and Native Americans. Europeans were not from the Western Hemisphere; Jews are from the area of present-day Israel (and beyond), which was their homeland. And, of course, this is what the whole malicious Khazar focus is intended to challenge.

      You seem to have a clear sense of the complexity and injustices of history. The Palestinians have claims too, and they need to be satisfied, while satisfying the legitimate claims of Jews too. No party gets all it wants, and it certainly isn’t so, if Israel were to hold out – for how many centuries? – that the Palestinian claim would be wiped out by time. Neither is that true of the Jews.

  3. Just some beliefs that I have about it all.
    1. There are no “Chosen People,” period.
    2. There is no such thing as a “Holy Land.” All land occupied by humans today in some way was taken by might. Israel, US no exception.
    3. Most Jews do not originate from the area of Israel, even going back to Biblical time. There is no genetic connection between Jews in power in Israel today with those Hebrews that occupied that land 2000+ years ago. The empire of Khazaria was a non-Jewish empire that converted to Judaism by the emporer who sought a neutral position(sandwiched between Christianity and Islam 1144AD) These are the Jews in power and so successful worldwide.(see Koestler’s “Thirteenth Tribe) They migrated to Europe, then a false homeland was created for them(Zionism)in Israel.
    4. Many, many Jewish people consider gentiles anti-semitic if they do not support Israel or zionism. There are Jews who do not support Zionism. They are not called anti-semitic. They are called self-haters. Being anti-Zionist is not at all the same as being anti-semitic. Incidently, semitic is a misnomer. Ashkenazis are not the descendants of the Ancient Israelites. They are not semitic. Probably 90% of the Jews are Ashkenazi.
    5. Indeed there was a holocaust. Many Jews hold it as only theirs, downplaying other such genocidal enterprises throughout history and even disregarding other groups such as gypsies in THE holocaust.
    6. Jews have used the holocaust as a political tool to create Israel, gain sympathy and even make money. (see Finkelstein ‘The Holocaust Industry”
    7. Jews are undoubtedly the most successful, enterprising people on earth and I admire them. But I don’t consider them Jews–they’re just people and unless they are living in Israel, I just don’t see their connection to it or interest in it. It seems a connection to what was once Khazaria would be more logical–why no forced homeland there?

    1. Perhaps to your surprise, I agree with some of what you say. I strongly disagree with other views. But I’m not going to bother with any of that. However, the Khazar mythology cannot be ignored.

      Determinative genetic study presented by the National Academy of Sciences demonstrates clear and strong genetic relationship between Western and Eastern European Jews, between Ashkenazim and Sephardic Jews, and between all and an ancient Middle Eastern founder population, with no extraordinary degree of the expected mingling with host populations. Even a later analysis of the findings, one that claims some greater presence of Khazar mitochondrial DNA among the Eastern European Ashkenazim, does not contradict any of these findings. And currently, nearly 60% of the Israeli Jewish population is of Sephardic descent.

      Hold whatever opinions you like. Hold them according the facts.

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