Why Did Jews Support the Bolsheviks?

Oct. 26 2017

Before the 1917 Russian Revolution, writes Michael Stanislawski, the Bolshevik party was actually one of the least popular among Jews—garnering significantly less support than even other socialist parties. Although many of the leading Bolsheviks at the time were themselves Jewish, these were “Jews who viewed their Jewishness as an incidental artifact of their birth, with no meaning for them either religiously” or ethnically. But after the revolution, things changed rapidly:

In the simplest terms, as a civil war broke out [in 1919 between the new Communist regime and its enemies], the anti-Bolshevik forces soon became more and more dominated by the right wing and its blatantly and violently anti-Semitic supporters. Although early on there were some pogroms waged by Red Army troops, these were quickly and firmly condemned by the Bolshevik leaders (especially Leon Trotsky, who was, after all, the head of the Red Army). In sharpest contrast, the White Army [as the anti-Bolsheviks were known] conducted massive pogroms against the Jews. And the clash was not only between the Reds and the Whites but soon also between the Red Army and the various Ukrainian and Polish forces, who also carried out an enormous number of pogroms against the Jewish population. . . .

And the vast Jewish masses, whether previously supporters of the Zionists or the [Jewish socialist] Bund, the [ultra-Orthodox] Agudat Israel or the [liberal and ecumenical] Constitutional Democrats, had no hesitation in making a simple, life-defining decision: the White Army and its allies attacked, murdered, and destroyed Jewish lives and homes; the Red Army attacked the pogromshchiki, made anti-Semitism a crime against the state, outlawed pogroms, and even prosecuted anti-Semitism in its own ranks. . . .

Certainly, there were many Jews who, in their heart of hearts, still maintained their fealty to their old political parties, their old way of life, their Zionism, their Bundism, their liberalism, their religious Orthodoxy. Many would fight as best they could for these causes in the next two decades, largely underground. But as the new Soviet Union rose from the ashes of the Revolution, . . . the Jews made their peace, or more, with the new Communist state that committed itself against the forces of reaction and anti-Semitism. Their subsequent fate under Soviet socialism—and its ultimate descent into the lunacy of the Stalinist terror—was not foreseen.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Bolshevism, Communism, History & Ideas, Russian Jewry, Soviet Jewry

Palestinian Acceptance of Israel as the Jewish State Must Be a Prerequisite to Further Negotiations

Oct. 19 2018

In 1993, in the early days of the Oslo peace process, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under Yasir Arafat accepted the “right of the state of Israel to exist in peace and security.” But neither it nor its heir, the Palestinians Authority, has ever accepted Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, or the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. Robert Barnidge explains why this distinction matters:

A Jewish state for the Jewish people, after all, was exactly what the [UN] General Assembly intended in November 1947 when it called for the partition of the Palestine Mandate into “the Arab state, the Jewish state, and the city of Jerusalem.”

Although the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state does not stand or fall on this resolution—in declaring the independence of Israel on the eve of the Sabbath on May 14, 1948, the Jewish People’s Council, [the precursor to the Israeli government], also stressed the Jewish people’s natural and historic rights—it reaffirms the legitimacy of Jewish national rights in (what was to become) the state of Israel.

The Palestinians have steadfastly refused to recognize Jewish self-determination. [Instead], the PLO [has been] playing a double game. . . . It is not simply that the PLO supported the General Assembly’s determination in 1975, rescinded in 1991, that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” It is that that the PLO leadership continues to speak of Jews as a religious community rather than a people, and of Zionism as a colonial usurper rather than the national liberation movement that it is.

The U.S. government, Barnidge concludes, “should demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace and security as a Jewish state” and refuse to “press Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians unless and until that happens.”

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Peace Process, PLO, US-Israel relations, Yasir Arafat