The American-Jewish Romance with Communism, Unrequited as Ever, Won’t Fade Away

Oct. 25 2017

Citing the description of American Communism in the Jewish Women’s Archive Encyclopedia and a recent New York Times article on the same subject by the radical author Vivian Gornick, Ruth Wisse notes a “celebratory tone,” as if describing “champions of a noble cause.” This tone, she writes, is grotesquely wrong:

This is Soviet Communism we are talking about—that killed an estimated 30 million of its own citizens, including through a government-enforced famine in Ukraine, the details of which even people hardened by Holocaust literature have trouble reading. . . . This is the movement that struck a pact with Hitler precipitating the war against Poland, and built the Gulag. . . .

Regarding Jews and Judaism, Soviet Communism forbade the practice of religion and the study of Hebrew. The Jewish section of the Communist party took the lead in persecuting rabbis and teachers, killing some, sending others to certain death. The Soviets hailed the 1929 Arab massacres of Jews in Palestine as the start of the Arab Communist revolution and formulated the slogans of anti-Zionism that are the basis of anti-Semitism in America today. Soviet propaganda accused Jews of imperialism in the 1930s and (with the Arabs) of racism in the 1970s. . . .

The Soviets used the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee to win American support during World War II and then executed its leadership in 1952. Might Gornick say that in these ways Communism prodded Jews into becoming the righteous people they always aspired to be? . . .

In no way does any of this imply that Jews are responsible for Communism, as some of its former European subjects try to claim. That false accusation should be exposed as strenuously as any blood libel or accusation of deicide. Communism did at least as much damage to Jews as to any other people, but in the name of that damage, we are also obliged to take seriously that many Jews supported one of the most murderous regimes in history and to see how and why and to what extent they went wrong.

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More about: American Jewry, Communism, History & Ideas, Soviet Jewry, Soviet Union

For Israelis, Anti-Zionism Kills

Dec. 14 2018

This week alone, anti-Zionists have killed multiple Israelis in a series of attacks; these follow the revelations that Hizballah succeeded in digging multiple attack tunnels from Lebanon into northern Israel. Simultaneously, some recent news stories in the U.S. have occasioned pious reminders that anti-Zionism should not be conflated with anti-Semitism. Bret Stephens notes that it is anti-Zionists, not defenders of Israel, who do the most to blur that distinction:

Israelis experience anti-Zionism in a different way from, say, readers of the New York Review of Books: not as a bold sally in the world of ideas, but as a looming menace to their earthly existence, held at bay only through force of arms. . . . Anti-Zionism might have been a respectable point of view before 1948, when the question of Israel’s existence was in the future and up for debate. Today, anti-Zionism is a call for the elimination of a state—details to follow regarding the fate befalling those who currently live in it. . . .

Anti-Zionism is ideologically unique in insisting that one state, and one state only, doesn’t just have to change. It has to go. By a coincidence that its adherents insist is entirely innocent, this happens to be the Jewish state, making anti-Zionists either the most disingenuous of ideologues or the most obtuse. When then-CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill called last month for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea” and later claimed to be ignorant of what the slogan really meant, it was hard to tell in which category he fell.

Does this make someone with Hill’s views an anti-Semite? It’s like asking whether a person who believes in [the principle of] separate-but-equal must necessarily be a racist. In theory, no. In reality, another story. The typical aim of the anti-Semite is legal or social discrimination against some set of Jews. The explicit aim of the anti-Zionist is political or physical dispossession.

What’s worse: to be denied membership in a country club because you’re Jewish, or driven from your ancestral homeland and sovereign state for the same reason? If anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are meaningfully distinct (I think they are not), the human consequences of the latter are direr.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian terror