What Natan Sharansky Knows That Bernie Sanders Doesn’t

March 30 2020

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.

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Read more at Commentary

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

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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Read more at Lahav’s Newsletter

More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror