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

Israel’s Nation-State Law and the Hysteria of the Western Media

Aug. 17 2018

Nearly a month after it was passed by the Knesset, the new Basic Law defining Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” is still causing outrage in the American and European press. The attacks, however, are almost uniformly incommensurate with this largely symbolic law, whose text, in the English translation found on the Knesset website, is barely over 400 words in length. Matthew Continetti comments:

Major journalistic institutions have become so wedded to a pro-Palestinian, anti-Benjamin Netanyahu narrative, in which Israel is part of a global trend toward nationalist authoritarian populism, that they have abdicated any responsibility for presenting the news in a dispassionate and balanced manner. The shameful result of this inflammatory coverage is the normalization of anti-Israel rhetoric and policies and widening divisions between Israel and the diaspora.

For example, a July 18, 2018, article in the Los Angeles Times described the nation-state law as “granting an advantageous status to Jewish-only communities.” But that is false: the bill contained no such language. (An earlier version might have been interpreted in this way, but the provision was removed.) Yet, as I write, the Los Angeles Times has not corrected the piece that contained the error. . . .

Such through-the-looking-glass analysis riddled [the five] news articles and four op-eds the New York Times has published on the matter at the time of this writing. In these pieces, “democracy” is defined as results favored by the New York Times editorial board, and Israel’s national self-understanding as in irrevocable conflict with its democratic form of government. . . .

The truth is that democracy is thriving in Israel. . . .  The New York Times quoted Avi Shilon, a historian at Ben-Gurion University, who said [that] “Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues are acting like we are still in the battle of 1948, or in a previous era.” Judging by the fallacious, paranoid, fevered, and at times bigoted reaction to the nation-state bill, however, Bibi may have good reason to believe that Israel is still in the battle of 1948, and still defending itself against assaults on the very idea of a Jewish state.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel's Basic Law, Israeli democracy, Media, New York Times