In The Lions’ Den: Zionism and the Left from Hannah Arendt to Noam Chomsky, Susie Linfield examines a number of prominent leftist thinkers’ often contradictory and almost always logically and morally incoherent ideas about Israel. David Mikics finds the book both “compulsively readable” and “persuasive,” but notes that it fails to draw conclusions about the larger pattern it identifies:
Linfield seems unsure about the value of her famous thinkers, given their frequent traffic with facile, biased pseudohistory. And so she should be. The truth is that [the Marxist historian Isaac] Deutscher’s adoring portrait of Leon Trotsky is hardly less distorted than his feelings about Jewishness. The same is true for [Noam] Chomsky’s [apologias for] Pol Pot’s Cambodia. . . .
One of the hardest lessons for leftists to learn is that their intellectual heroes can have feet of clay. . . . Proclaiming men and women to be Great Thinkers is a dangerous game, especially when the Greats fail to observe basic rules of rational, fact-based argument. . . .
Albert Memmi, [the one thinker discussed in the book hostile neither to Israel nor to Judaism], who became a Zionist in response to Arab anti-Semitism in Tunisia, not to European prejudice, should probably have the last word. He realized that the left’s betrayals of the Jews were “so extensive and recurrent” that “they were intrinsic to left politics rather than random aberrations.” Just as when Memmi wrote, the left’s Jewish problem looks depressingly inevitable, and intractable.