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Wistrich on

Wistrich on "The Left, the Jews and Israel"

Why so many Jewish socialists abandoned their people and heritage.


Robert Wistrich, Hebrew University professor of European and Jewish History and director of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of anti-Semitism has just published his 29th book titled "From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews and Israel".

It is an impressive tome of over 600 pages and follows his monumental seminal work "A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad”, published in 2010 and now recognized as the definitive work on the world's oldest hatred and an indispensable text for scholars.

In a fascinating preface to his new book, Wistrich provides a brief autobiographical sketch. His father had originally been a supporter of the illegal Polish Communist Party in pre-war Cracow but became alienated from Stalinist communism after being arrested by the NKVD. He and his wife, who had experienced bitter Polish anti-Semitism, survived the Holocaust by fleeing to Kazakhstan where Robert was born.

Wistrich was educated in England, and to use his words, was “radicalized” in grammar school and later at Stanford University. He first visited Israel in 1961, returning in 1969 when he was appointed editor of the left wing Israeli journal, New Outlook. However his passion for the Jewish State led to a parting of the ways with the Israeli far left. Robert became increasingly engaged in academic scholarship related to anti-Semitism, received a senior appointment at the Hebrew University, and is now recognized as the world’s foremost scholar in the field.

From Ambivalence to Betrayal is an historic review and analysis of the abandonment of the Jewish people by the left from the early 19th century until the present. It also relates to the extraordinarily disproportionate number of socialist thinkers and leaders who were of Jewish origin and seeks to explain what motivated so many of them, in the course of their utopian and futile efforts to ‘repair the world’, to abandon their people and their heritage and frenetically seek to deny their kinsmen the right to self-determination.

The introductory essay is a brilliant overview of the contemporary Jewish political arena viewed in the context of the concurrent rise of Zionism, Communism, anti-Semitism and Nazism. It focuses strongly on the hypocrisy of the existing left which has become obsessed with demonization and delegitimization of the Jewish state. Wistrich demonstrates the extent to which today’s radical anti-Zionists, despite purporting to represent the left, often share the identical obsessions and delusions concerning the alleged malignant influence of the Jews in the modern world as classical fascist anti-Semites.

Wistrich provides fascinating and innovative insights on left-wing revolutionaries. He skillfully relates the connection of “the prefigured 19th century seabed of anti-Semitic socialism found in Marx, Fourier and Proudhon, extending through to the orthodox Communists and “non-conformist” Trotskyites to the Islamo-Leftist hybrids of today who systematically vilify the so called racist essence of the Jewish State”.

His analysis of the linkage of these revolutionaries with the left's contemporary abandonment of Israel is a major intellectual and scholastic achievement and provides an intriguing insight into the sources of the far left’s current application of double standards and anti-Israel venom.

Wistrich reviews in depth the attitude towards the Jews adopted by many of the great socialist revolutionaries of Jewish origin like Karl Marx, Bernard Lazare, Moses Hess, Ferdinand LaSalle, Karl Kautsky, Victor Adler, Rosa Luxemburg, Leon Trotsky, Bruno Kreisky, Isaac Deutscher and others.

Trotsky was ultimately forced by Stalin into assuming the traditional Jewish role in society: the reviled scapegoat.

His chapter on Leon Trotsky, entitled ‘A Bolshevik’s Tragedy’, is a masterly essay which breaks new ground on this extraordinary charismatic Jewish revolutionary who desperately sought to repudiate his Jewish origins. Yet, despite achieving the reputation of being “the most intransigent of revolutionary Bolsheviks”, Trotsky was ultimately forced by Stalin into assuming the traditional Jewish role in society and became reviled as the scapegoat for the failures of the Revolution.

Wistrich highlights the fact that many of today’s anti-Jewish Jews inherited the mantle of the 19th and early 20th century anti-Semitic Jewish radical revolutionaries. Yet he stresses that these renegade Jews have vastly exceeded the anti-Semitic tirades of their predecessors and even to the extent of allying themselves with reactionary clerical zealots and Jihadists, who represent the antithesis of their purported world outlook.

He points to their public support and endorsement of terrorists and religious fanatics, noting that even the most extreme early anti-Jewish revolutionaries like Marx, Engels, Kautsky, Rosa Luxemburg or Trotsky “would never have remained silent about sharia law, censorship, female genital mutilation, honor killings, suicide bombings, or making the world safe for Allah’s rule” and rarely resorted to outright racist outbursts like their current successors”. Nor would they have gone to the extreme of allying themselves with those explicitly committed to our physical destruction.

Wistrich asserts that Holocaust inversion, now a major component of the Left’s effort to besmirch Israel, whilst initially introduced by British historian Arnold Toynbee who referred to Zionists as "disciples of the Nazis”, was in fact institutionalized as the “Zionist-Nazi” nexus at the Prague Trials orchestrated from Moscow.

He reminds us that it was post war Jewish Marxists who encouraged the left’s current paranoia and “anti-racist” racism against Israel. As an example he quotes the Polish born Jewish biographer of Trotsky, Isaac Deutscher, who already in 1967 described Israel as the "Prussia of the Middle East" and a bastion of “racial Talmudic exclusiveness and superiority".

It was the Soviets who, in 1975, succeeded in passing a UN resolution bracketing Zionism and racism. Whilst this was ultimately rescinded in December 1991, it remains today the central plank in the Arab-Leftist efforts to criminalize Israel and brand it as a state engaging in war crimes.

The concluding chapters review the anti-Zionist myths, many of which seem to have been directly replicated from Nazi propaganda and are today enthusiastically promoted by the Marxist Islamist alliance who regard Israel as the "Jew of the nations" fulfilling a dark preordained fate as an eternal scapegoat.

Wistrich relates to the quasi-religious belief of these groups that “the world will only be “liberated” by the downfall of America and the defeat of the Jews. This chiliastic fantasy has today emerged as a notable point of fusion between the radical anti-Zionist left in the West and the global jihad. Revolutionary anti-Semitism has become an increasingly important factor in cementing the anti-capitalist populism much as it was during the birth pangs of modern socialism over 150 years ago.”

This is a magisterial work, providing a comprehensive understanding of the origins of the most pernicious challenges currently facing the Jewish people, especially those originating from the enemy within. It will be especially valuable to those directly engaged in the struggle to neutralize the evil efforts against Israel by the left-Islamic alliance and its acolytes of Jewish origin.

August 11, 2012

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Visitor Comments: 41

(16) Jane Garcia, August 25, 2012 8:55 PM


I can understand how, in reaction to Nazi persecution, many Jewish people would turn to socialist Russia. But how can they not understand the collaboration between Islamists and fascism in WW2 ? and that the modern left/liberal/progressive/Democratic sympathy for the Palestinians is misguiding them to a place where they are pitted against their very selves ??? May God bless all who genuinely seek brotherly love and peace.

(15) Anonymous, August 16, 2012 1:11 AM

Who's Left?

Displaying my ignorance, I am not sure exactly what "left" means and which leaders and persons fall into the category. I fear that the term can mean any thing to any person and is sometimes used to assume that Democrats in the U.S., identified as "Left" to distinguish them from the Republican "Right" is automatically assumed to be anti-Israel and anti-Jewish. Or that individuals who are not sufficiently hawkish must also be "Leftists" and, thus, anti-Israel. I trust that Professor Wistrich defines "Left" so that he and his readers are on the same page.

Celisa, September 5, 2012 7:21 AM

The conservatives, sans Ron Paul, are much more respectful toward Israel and protective of Israel, than those in the Obama administration.

I have seen how the U.S. position toward Israel has changed under Obama and the left biased media. Obama has been more aligned with Arab countries that seek Israel's demise, than with standing with Israel. I am more comfortable with Romney, in his convictions in backing Israel because of his faith. Despite, Obama's original stance in 2008 about recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's true capital city, Obama is pressuring Israel to go back to previous borders, with "Palestine", which supports and harbors terrorists and publicly Obama has backed the Muslim brotherhood, who seek to enforce Sharia law. I find it alarming that all Jewish citizens seem blind to this, some even support Obama on a 2 state solution. "Palestine" never existed, was just people who moved from Jordan, Yemen, etc for an agenda, to turn left leaning Jewish folks to side with their "plight". Yet, when Jerusalem was under "Palestinian" control, they used it as a toilet, a garbage dump. Only when Israel restored the Holy land, did the Muslims complain and deem it their holy land, when historically "Palestine" has no real stake or claim to it. Jerusalem belongs to those who believe in the Jewish & Christian faiths. Mecca, is the Muslim's holy land. Despite all the attacks, the left media, doesn't report on, they distort the truth about Israel's search for peace and safety, even if it means, dismantling Iran's nuclear program. Iran is developing a WMD, the US is stalling in it's tactics. Romney will fight with our military might to keep Iran in check and look out for our only true ally in the middle east. The choice is simple, if you're open to it. Read a variety of research pieces, without bias vs bias. Time for the US to stop being two facef, actions speak louder than words.

Anonymous, September 7, 2012 5:55 AM

I couldn't agree with you more.

Anonymous, September 7, 2012 5:54 AM

The "left" in the US is the Democratic Party. They describe themselves as such there really is no contention here it is a simple fact. Athough there may be those who are Democrats themselves who may not believe along the same lines as the "Party" does, the sad and frightening truth is that The Left/Democratic/Progressive Party is no friend to either the Jewish people or Isreal. This Administration in particular has been quite blatant in expressing that as a much. In case you didn't catch the DNC last night (9/5) the Party had to Vote wording for God and the acknowledgement of Jerusamel as the Capital of Isreal back into their platform. That in itself being horrific enough the vote had to re-done three times. Each times the Boo's and No's getting louder and louder against the reinstatement of the language to the platform. We can go back also to when our wonderful President told Israel that it would be in everyone's best interest if Israel reverted their borders back to the 1967 lines. The Democratic/Progressive Party in America has had it's long history of racism from it's inception (I'm not talking individuals in the party as explained earlier....the party as a whole). They were the ones to fight for maintaining slavery (the South was majority Democratic except for the slaves). They fought against Civil Right for Black and created the all well known KKK. There has never been "tolerance" within this "Party." They still want to enslave people only now no longer care what color you are so long as they get the power, our money, & our property." They will align themselves with anyone. Obama's first act? An apology tour through the middle east. He has NEVER been to Israel. He supports the Muslim Brotherhood openly, knowing exactly who and what they are. There is no hidden agenda here. It is all out in the open. You just have to be willing to look at the horror instead and seak the truth through facts.

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