The Great British Historian and Devoted Communist Who Once Suggested Nuking Israel

Born in Alexandria in 1917 to Jewish parents, Eric Hobsbawm—who later became one of Britain’s most highly regarded historians—spent his childhood in Austria and Germany before coming to England in 1933 in the wake of Hitler’s rise to power. Hobsbawm had joined a socialist youth group in 1931 and remained committed to Karl Marx’s teachings right up until his death in 2012. Reviewing a massive new biography of Hobsbawm by Richard Evans, David Pryce-Jones writes:

Hobsbawm never deviated from the party line, however misguided or self-contradictory it might have been. The record speaks for itself. Stalin’s close colleagues confessed in a series of show trials to crimes they could not possibly have committed, but Hobsbawm nonetheless believed they were guilty. Every Soviet invasion of territory and suppression of other nation-states from the Baltic republics and Finland at the beginning of World War II to Hungary in 1956, and then the Prague Spring afterward, delighted him. He accused Mikhail Gorbachev of the wanton destruction of the Soviet Union, staying in the party right up to its dissolution.

Not long before he died, he caused a scandal by proclaiming in a BBC interview that the murder of fifteen or twenty million people would still now be justified if it led to the creation of a radiant Communist tomorrow. The omissions from his books amount to wholesale falsification. The secret police, Beria, the Gulag, slave labor and the White Sea Canal, the mass execution of Poles at Katyn, the deportation of the Chechens and other minorities, enforced famines, riots—all are either met with silence or a half-sentence with grudge in it.

In Pryce-Jones’s estimation, Evans does not do justice to Hobsbawm’s own moral failings. He illustrates with a personal anecdote:

In my experience, Hobsbawm was nothing like the genial and popular figure depicted by Evans. At a dinner in the house of Hugh Thomas, the historian of Spain and Cuba, Hobsbawm began by describing Castro’s Cuba as a Communist paradise. . . . Then, pontificating about the Middle East, he said that it would be better to kill a few million Israelis by dropping a nuclear bomb on their country than to suffer the deaths of 200 million Europeans and Americans in the cold-war nuclear exchange that he forecast would very soon happen. When I said that Goebbels was the last person I could recall who had spoken of mass murder in terms of arithmetic, an enraged Hobsbawm left the room and did not return.

Read more at New Criterion

More about: Cold War, Communism, Israel & Zionism, Soviet Union


Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict