Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Anti-Semitism and the Left

It probably won’t come to anyone’s surprise that the Huffington Post is a bastion of liberals and leftists. If Matt and I wanted to focus on the amount of hate directed against Republicans, conservatives, “neo-cons,” and the Bush administration instead of hate directed against Jews and Israel, it would take the rest of our lives to get it all down. And it’s fine for the HuffPo’s audience to have these political leanings.

So then the question is asked: Why is there so much anti-Semitism among this leftist audience? After all, liberals are all about inclusion, multiculturalism, and acceptance. Clearly, somewhere along the line it became acceptable to not only declare hate against Israel, but also to use anti-Semitic tropes and canards to do it.

Now, I am far from the first person to write about this. Here is one article among many, but I would like to write down some of my thoughts. I recently had a discussion with some of my students on this topic and I wanted to get it down before I forgot everything we talked about.

I think something that younger people forget is just how much the past few decades have been an aberration, when it comes to anti-Semitism. My grandparents were brought up in a time when it was normal for churches and religious school teachers to tell them that the Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus. The way things have been recently have caused some to say that anti-Semitism is gone, or is only present in the thoughts of white supremacists and neo-Nazis. In other words, extremists.

This has changed. Big time. Anti-Semitic terminology, myths and accusations have taken on a resurgence, even in mainstream society. The fantastic website zombietime contains many of these, but here are a couple of examples. Notice how both are of left-leaning rallies.

Anti-War rally in San Francisco

Anti-terrorism rally in Berkeley, CA

What has changed since the Holocaust (which rendered anti-Semitism in its current form as “un-PC” and therefore poison to the leftist sensibility) is twofold: The rise of Israel’s military and political strength, and the rise of its enemies’ propaganda weapon.

There are particular parts of the leftist ideology that make up a worldview, and as such can never be changed. Some of these include:

1. Suffering is only due to inequality. If there is no inequality, people will not abuse each other.

2. It is the responsibility of the rich to take care of the poor. If the poor are doing something wrong (like breaking the law) it is because the rich are not doing a good enough job helping them become productive. In other words, the rich are always wrong, the poor are always right.

3. The West is always wrong. Accordingly, in a dispute between the two, whoever is not in “the West” is always right.

4. The USA in particular is always wrong. In a dispute between other countries and America, the other countries are always right. Unless those other countries include Israel, in which case Israel is wrong and are only trying to manipulate America. (In disputes between America and Israel, you may see a sudden resurgence in blind patriotism and “America-firstism” among the leftist, which in any other situation would be unacceptable).

5. Military force is never justified. Unless it is against the West.

Obviously, I’m generalizing a bit. But I have found that you can really see these kind of worldviews playing out in much of the population on the HuffPost and elsewhere. So how does this get us back to anti-Semitism? Because Israel in its current form became rich, powerful, and Western. All of which are antithetical to getting leftist support. Even Israel’s democratic government and inclusive society were not sufficient to gain the support of the Far Left. Israel is seen as a powerful, American-backed nation oppressing poor, non-white, uneducated “natives.” The fact that the “oppressed” were just as oppressive towards their own people, if not more so, did not phase the left even the slightest. It’s a good example of cognitive dissonance, a subject I intend to write more about in the future.

But this alone would not be enough to explain the anti-Semitism that has grown so pervasive among the Far Left. It is true that anti-Semites would see the anti-Israel cause (though of course they would call it the “pro-Palestinian cause”) and jump on board accordingly. If you scan some more of the zombietime photo documentaries this will become pretty clear. But among those who really have nothing against Jews to start with, what cause their acceptance of such clearly bigoted attitudes?

This brings me to the second part: The propaganda of Israel’s enemies. In the book “Upside Down History” the author talks about how Yassir Arafat was talk to speak the language of the left by his Communist backers:

Muhammad Yazid, the minister of information in Algeria [told Arafat]:
"Wipe out the argument that Israel is a small state whose existence is threatened by the Arab states, or the reduction of the Palestinian problem to a question of refugees; instead, present the Palestinian struggle as a struggle for liberation like the others. Wipe out the impression …that the Zionist is the underdog. Now it is the Arab who is oppressed and victimized in his existence because he is not only facing the Zionists but also world imperialism."

As you can see, Yazid didn’t tell Arafat to actually change the goals or tactics of the Palestinian movement, he just told him to change the way he presented it to the world and the kind of language he used. Arafat and the other Palestinian leaders went right on declaring their devotion to the destruction of Israel in Arabic, relying on the cognitive dissonance of the leftists supporting them for cover. Looks like they were right. By the time we got to the ‘90s and ‘00s, the Palestinian position has become one of the favored “causes” among left-wing college students, right up there with saving the Darfurians from a real genocide, women’s rights, gay rights, and the environment. One of these things is not like the other...

I’m getting sidetracked again. This sort of belief led to anti-Semitism because American Jews overwhelmingly support Israel. But the pro-Arab propagandists changed the argument so that Israel’s very existence was an injustice and a blot on humanity, everything they did was a crime, and anyone who ever so much as spoke positively about them was complicit with all these terrible things. It became pretty natural to equate Israel and their Jewish supports, forming them into one cruel creature dedicated only to stealing land and killing Palestinians.

There is little room for compromise in the minds of many extremists, including those among the left. You are either with us or against us. If you support Israel, even if you disagree with its policies, you are endorsing “a system of oppression and racism.” And the Jews are against us, because they want Israel to exist. Therefore, we hate them. And we are justified in hating them, because they like the “Zionist entity.”

Once the Arab propagandists had their followers seeing “Zionists” (Jews who don’t despite Israel and wish it destroyed) as the enemy, the rest of the anti-Semitic myths came quickly:

-Jews control the government? Sure, it’s contained in the protocols, but let’s just change it to “AIPAC controls Congress.” It’s just as wrong, but why else would our Democrat president be supporting the evil Israel unless some nefarious Jews were forcing him to do it with campaign money?

-Jews kill the children of non-Jews? The Arabs are all too happy to wave the bloody shirt whenever one of their child soldiers or human shields is killed, and their leftist defenders are all too happy to minimize the possibility of Arabs using either...or to blame exclusively Israel for it.

-Jews steal organs? Well, the Palestinians said they did, and even though they had no evidence, we’ll believe it anyway. After all, we all know how evil Israel is....

-Jews are like Nazis? I don’t think I even need to explain this one. As much as it’s become all too common for everyone in this day and age to equate something we don’t like with Nazi Germany, I would expect better from the super-PC leftists.

And yet despite the overwhelming belief among the left that Israel is one of the most odious countries on the planet, they still don’t mind holding it to a higher standard than 99% of the world. As we determined in this post, double standards are unquestionably bigoted regardless of who is on the receiving end. Yet among the HuffPo crowd, double standards are perfectly okay as long as their chosen enemy is the one being subjected to it. They don’t see a problem in equating hypocrisy with justice.

I’ll talk a little bit more about the psychology and worldviews of the HuffPo crowd and the leftists among them, but I’ll close with this plea: Remember what’s important. Standing for peace is the most important thing on this topic. Don’t be sucked into a morass of ideology where punishing Israel or the USA for what they did is more important than the wellbeing of human beings on the ground. Isn’t freedom and peace what we all want? How is supporting Hamas going to accomplish that?

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