What Natan Sharansky Knows That Bernie Sanders Doesn’t

While Senator Bernie Sanders’s chances of winning the Democratic presidential nomination look increasingly slim, his candidacy has sparked a newfound enthusiasm for socialism in America—to which Jews have not been immune. Meir Soloveichik contrasts this wave of socialist sentiment with the experience of Natan Sharansky, who survived the horrors of seeing Karl Marx’s ideas put into practice:

At the age of five, Natan (then Anatoly) Sharansky experienced his first miracle. Joseph Stalin, busily fanning the flames of the “Jewish doctors’ plot” conspiracy and planning a mass deportation of Soviet Jews, was suddenly [felled] by a stroke, and died days later. Young Anatoly’s father, a journalist who knew much that Soviet state propaganda would never reveal, secretly informed his son of the significance of what had occurred. . . . The stroke occurred on the holiday of Purim in the year 1953, and just as in the book of Esther, the anti-Semitic intentions of a modern-day Haman were suddenly undone.

[A]t the same time, . . . a very different Jewish reaction took place elsewhere. In Israel, kibbutzim associated with the militantly secular and ardently socialist Hashomer Hatsa’ir movement mourned Stalin openly and sincerely. “Joseph Vissarianovich Stalin is no more,” wailed the headline of the daily socialist Hebrew paper Hamishmar. The contrast could not be more striking: a future refusenik, destined to be the most prominent prisoner of Zion, lives in an evil empire and in his heart celebrates the death of a moral monster. Meanwhile, days after Purim, Jews in the first free state of Israel in two millennia mourned one of history’s greatest tyrants.

[I]t is difficult not to see Sanders and Sharansky as embodiments of two philosophical and political paths paved in the 20th century. Both men are prominent activists on the world stage; both seem to speak in the name of justice and human dignity. Yet they are mirror images of each other. Sanders spent time in Israel during its infancy, in a socialist kibbutz. He speaks fondly and proudly of that experience and utilizes it to criticize the Israel of the present day, and for its purported bigotry. One senses that he, like others of his ilk, resents the fact that the Jewish state is not the secular workers’ wonderland that some hoped it would be.

Sharansky walked a different path. Originally a Zionist activist without a devout connection to Hebrew scripture, he describes in his 1988 memoir Fear No Evil how his time in the Gulag inspired him to bond with the biblical God, and how this faith inspired him in his resistance to the very tyrannical society that Sanders spoke so kindly about. . . . In this, Sharansky’s own evolution parallels what Israel itself became over time—not only less socialist and more Western, but also more religious, more biblically connected. More, one might say, Jewish.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Bernie Sanders, Communism, Joseph Stalin, Judaism, Labor Zionism, Natan Sharansky, Soviet Union

Ordinary Gazans Are Turning against Hamas—and Its Western Sympathizers

In the past few days, difficult-to-confirm reports have emerged of unrest in the Gaza Strip, and of civilians throwing stones at Hamas operatives. A recent video from Al Jazeera showed a Gazan declaring that “God will bring Qatar and Turkey to account” for the suffering of Palestinians in the current war. Being an agent of the Qatari government, the journalist turned away, and then pushed the interviewee with his hand to prevent him from getting near the microphone. Yet this brief exchange contributes much to the ongoing debate about Palestinian support for Hamas, and belies the frequent assertion by experts that the Israeli campaign is only “further radicalizing” the population.

For some time, Joseph Braude has worked with a number of journalists and researchers to interview ordinary Gazans under circumstances where they don’t fear reprisals. He notes that the sorts of opinions they share are rarely heard in Western media, let alone on Al Jazeera or Iran-sponsored outlets:

[A] resident of Khan Younis describes how locals in a bakery spontaneously attacked a Hamas member who had come to buy bread. The incident, hardly imaginable before the present war, reflects a widespread feeling of “disgust,” he says, after Gazan aspirations for “a dignified life and to live in peace” were set back by the Hamas atrocities of October 7.

Fears have grown that this misery will needlessly be prolonged by Westerners who strive, in effect, to perpetuate Hamas rule, according to one Gazan woman. Addressing protesters who have taken to the streets to demand a ceasefire on behalf of Palestinians, she calls on them to make a choice: “Either support the Palestinian people or the Hamas regime that oppresses them.” If protesters harbor a humanitarian motive, she asks, “Why don’t we see them demonstrating against Hamas?”

“Hamas is the destruction of the Palestinian people. We’ve had enough. They need to be wiped out—because if they remain, the people will be wiped out.”

You can watch videos of some of the interviews by clicking the link below.

Read more at Free Press

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion