Israel and the Jewish diaspora make progressive pieties look silly.
Why does the Left hate the Jews?
The Labour party in the United Kingdom is being convulsed at the moment with a public reckoning of the anti-Semitism of some of its most prominent members, including the former mayor of London, “Red” Ken Livingstone, who has just been suspended from the party for arguing that Adolf Hitler was, effectively, a Zionist. He was trying to explain away the anti-Semitic remarks of MP Naz Shah, who suggested that Israel be liquidated and its population forcibly resettled in the United States.
In the United States, the Harvard Law Record went to some lengths to conceal the identity of a law student who attacked a visiting Israeli dignitary as — in the classic anti-Semitic formulation — “smelly.” That student was Husam El-Qoulaq, a Palestinian leftist. The campus Left has, to no one’s surprise, rallied to his defense. Among those defending him were a number of Jewish law students, who insisted that El-Qoulaq couldn’t possibly have known the anti-Semitic history of “smelly Jew” rhetoric, in spite of his having been reared at the world center of such nonsense.
Others insisted that the Harvard case and the Labour cases are — this, too, will be familiar — not at all about anti-Semitism but about anti-Zionism.
That argument does not stand up to two seconds’ scrutiny, and never has. One of the fundamental stories of history is that people move around and bump into each other. It is true that most of the current Jewish population of Israel descends from people who were not precisely sons of the soil they now inhabit. But then, neither are the so-called Palestinians, who are Arabs. Arabs famously come from Arabia, but they are located all over the world. No one talks about the need to get the Arabs out of Egypt or Libya — or Palestine, for that matter — any more than anybody seriously thinks about returning the Americas to the descendants of the aboriginal population, which, of course, wasn’t aboriginal, either, but merely the first to emigrate. The Irish are descended of people not native to Ireland, as indeed ultimately is every population in the world, including those in the African cradle of humanity.
And it isn’t because the establishment of Israel is, relatively speaking, fresh in the historical memory, and therefore an open wound. Before the end of World War II, there was no Pakistan, and to the extent that there was an “India,” it was a geographical rather than a political term, much like “Palestine.” There was no independent Ireland until the 1920s and no Republic of Ireland until 1948. There was no People’s Republic of China until 1949. There was no Zimbabwe until 1980, no Czech Republic until 1993, and no modern Democratic Republic of the Congo until 1997. Israel is an ancient state compared with geopolitical newcomers such as the 30-odd countries created since 1990.
Yet it is the Jewish state, and the Jewish state alone, that is permanently marked for extermination. No one is throwing a fit about Timor-Leste or Serbia. The old saw about American racial politics was that in the South whites accepted blacks individually but rejected them corporately, whereas in the North it was the opposite, with the Yankees embracing integration and equality in theory while ensuring that they rarely encountered a black American in person. (Senator Bernie Sanders, proud son of diverse Brooklyn, now represents the whitest state in the Union.) And that’s the best that the Left can say for itself: “We don’t hate the Jews individually, just as a nation.”
That’s not much of a defense.
Adolf Hitler is supposed to have justified his anti-Semitism to Otto Wagener on the grounds that “the Jew is not a socialist.” Neither was the Jew a New Soviet Man, as Josef Stalin’s minions launched their murderous purges with denunciations of “rootless cosmopolitans,” a term of abuse recently revived by partisans of Donald Trump. In the United States, the Jew-haters took the opposite view: that Jews were to be reviled because they were socialists and potential New Soviet Men.
The Jews can be whatever their enemies need them to be. For Henry Ford and more than a few on the modern left, the Jews are the international bankers secretly pulling the strings of the global economy. As one widely circulated Occupy video put it: “The smallest group in America controls the money, media, and all other things. The fingerprints belong to the Jewish bankers who control Wall Street. I am against Jews who rob America. They are 1 percent who control America. President Obama is a Jewish puppet. The entire economy is Jewish. Every federal judge [on] the East Coast is Jewish.”
For those who learned at the feet of that old fraud Edward Said, the Jews are the colonialists, the European modernists inflicting capitalism and technology upon the noble savages of their imaginations. The Israeli Jews commit the double crime of insisting upon being Jews and refusing to be sacrificial victims. They were okay, in the Left’s estimate, for about five minutes, back when Israel’s future was assumed to be one of low-impact kibbutz socialism. History went in a different direction, and today Israel has one of the world’s most sophisticated economies.
For the Jew-hater, this is maddening: Throw the Jews out of Spain, and they thrive abroad. Send them to the poorest slums in New York, and those slums stop being slums. Keep them out of the Ivy League and watch NYU become a world-class institution inspired by men such as Jonas Salk, son of largely uneducated Polish immigrants. Put the Jewish state in a desert wasteland and watch it bloom, first with produce and then with technology. Israel today has more companies listed on NASDAQ than any other country except the United States and China. The economy under Palestinian management? Olives and handicrafts, and a GDP per capita that barely exceeds that of Sudan.
The Arab–Israeli conflict is a bitter and ugly one. My own view of it is that the Palestinian Arabs have some legitimate grievances, and that I stopped caring about them when they started blowing up children in pizza shops. You can thank the courageous heroes of the Battle of Sbarro for that. Israel isn’t my country, but it is my country’s ally, and it is impossible for a liberty-loving American to fail to admire what the Jewish state has done.
And that, of course, is why the Left wants to see the Jewish state exterminated.
— Kevin D. Williamson is the roving correspondent at National Review.